2145 W. Chapman Ave.
Orange, CA 92868
I love when good things happen to my friends. My buddy Richard has pretty much hit the life lottery in the last two years. He probably does not want me to broadcast this, but two years ago he had just gotten out of a horrible relationship. In the short two years since, he has met a wonderful woman, gotten engaged to her, bought a house, and has a child on the way. Basically, he wrapped up the American dream in two years, and has a bright future to look forward to. Needless to say I am very happy for both him and Lindsay. I am also happy because since Richard has moved yet again, there is a whole new set of restaurants to explore in his new neighborhood, starting with Pasta Connection.
This was not the first I had heard of Pasta Connection. A reader of the blog had mentioned it, and I had put it on our long list of places to hit up. Pasta Connection has this location, and another one located in Costa Mesa. They have been around since 1984, using Italian family recipes, along with Argentinian cuisine. This might seem like an odd duo, but one stat I read on-line, (so take it for what its worth), was that 60 percent of the Argentine population has Italian origins. This was mainly due to the open immigration policies of the Argentine government during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, along with a temperate climate, that Italians were already acclimated to. These factors, along with others that I will not bore you to death about, lead to the fusion of Italian and Argentine restaurants.
We got to the restaurant at about 6:45 on a recent Thursday evening. When we arrived there was no other customers in the restaurant. Kind of an eerie feeling, but as the night went on there were about four tables filled, out of the twenty or so that are inside the restaurant. The restaurant is adorned with many Italian and Argentine flags displayed proudly. Spanish music was playing from the speakers a bit loudly, while the TV was tuned to on of the Spanish language stations. The decor here is a bit dated, which helped lend to a laid back vibe. After waiting for Richard and his family to arrive, Katie and I had plenty of time to peruse the pretty large menu. Let's see if we had a love connection with the food here.
Before we get to the food that we ordered, let's take a quick peek at the bread that was served before the meal. This bread was served warm, with a nice crunch to the crust, while the inside was fairly soft. Of course since this is a half Argentine restaurant, the bread was served with a very good chimichurri. A little on the oily side, this added some good flavor to the bread.
You can tell what is Argentine on the menu at Pasta Connection, by the tiny Argentine flags placed by each item. No food item is probably more recognized as being from the second largest South American country as an Empanada. ($1.95). Here they have five different varieties to choose from, beef, ham and cheese, spinach, corn, and chicken. Katie and I ordered the beef and the chicken. Both were very doughy. The insides were full of stuff, but they really lacked that punch of flavor that I was expecting. A little on the bland side. I did think these were a great value though. You could easily make a meal off of three of these, and get out of here for right around six dollars. Of course we had more food coming out for us.
Most of our entrees included salads, so here's a quick look at the Di Cena Salad at Pasta Connection. This dinner salad came with mixed greens, tomatoes, and carrots, along with your choice of dressing. Pretty standard dinner salad, but I did like the good amount of dressing used here.
Starting our entree portion off is Katie's selection for the evening, The Pasta Connection Speciale ($13.95). These tortellini were filled with meat and covered in white sauce, with a small dollop of their meat sauce. Katie was pleased with her dish. It came out of the kitchen scalding hot, the pasta was cooked well, and the flavor was just enough to keep Katie's taste buds interested. She would not hesitate to get this dish again, but would ask for more red sauce next time.
Richard's soon to be Mother in Law, the wonderful Jolene could not resist the special that they were offering on this night, the Grilled Salmon ($16.95). I really thought the grill marks here made this 8 ounce fillet look real good, but unfortunately her salmon was overcooked, so only the center section of this rather large piece of fish was done right. The ends were very dry and rubbery. The spaghetti this was served with was very heavy on the garlic, which can almost never be a bad thing. Jolene would opt to get something else when eating here again.
Lindsay's Dad, Greg got something that I have never ordered in a restaurant, Angleotti Romano ($13.95). I even had to look up what angleotti was. It's a kind of ravioli from the Piedmont region of Italy, which is in the northwest corner of the country, and shares a border with France and Switzerland, (who knew you would learn some geography on a food blog). Anyways, back to the angleotti. This angleotti was filled with meat, then sauteed with mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, and then topped with marinara sauce. Greg felt this was a good sized portion, he liked the taste of the red sauce, and the mushrooms really stood out for him. He made no mention of the angleotti, so I would assume it kind of got lost here. He did say that he would go a different direction when dining here again.
It too picky Richard a little while to come up with what he wanted to eat, but he finally settled on the Cannelloni Di Carne ($12.95). Here the tubular pasta was filled with ricotta cheese, meat, onion, and Parmesan cheese, then topped with white and meat sauce, and baked. Richard felt the fillings inside of this cannelloni were a little on the watery side, but he did think the pasta was cooked fine, and the combo of the red and white sauces worked well together. Take Richard's opinion for what its worth though, because he is a big fan of awful Chipotle. Sorry, Rich just had to get my anti-Chipotle rant in there.
Sorry for the faraway shot of Tricia's dinner, the Eggplant Parmigiana ($12.95), this was Katie's attempt at food photography. Good work babe, we will work on it. The eggplant parmigiana is baked with both white and marinara sauce, then covered with mozzarella cheese. Tricia was a little disappointed that there was no pasta served with this. She did however think that the serving size of this was more than generous. She liked the sauces used here, but had one slice of eggplant that was not cooked all the way through. Even with this minor hiccup, she could see herself getting this again.
I really struggled with my pick for dinner, but like Lindsay, I finally decided on the Tetrazzini ($14.95). This is usually something I would not order, so I was a little out of my comfort zone here. This dish was made up of chopped up chicken pieces, noodles, mushrooms, and white cream sauce, then was topped with a mound of mozzarella cheese. Neither Lindsay nor I were very pleased with this dish. It was very plain tasting, and was only made better when we asked for some meat sauce to help boost the flavor a bit. I will probably think twice before ordering tetrazzini again. Luckily, I had ordered another sandwich to fall back on.
I was not going to come here, and not try one of my favorite sandwiches, the Argentina specialty, the Sandwich de Entrana ($8.95). Argentina is known for their skirt steak, so I had no choice but to order this sandwich that comes with skirt steak, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. This sandwich was good. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was tender, and had a decent flavor profile. I used some of the left over chimichurri to add some flavor and moisture to the sandwich, which made the sandwich even better.
Dessert was up next, and the seven of us split two desserts. You could probably guess that we were already full by this point of the evening. This Tiramisu ($5.95) is a pretty solid version of this now household known dessert, that is on hundreds of menus across OC. This tiramisu had just the hint of espresso, which I enjoy more because I am not really a coffee fiend. This one was not as drenched as others either. The Mil Hojas Cake ($5.95) was a little more adventurous. Translated, this means a thousand leaves. This dessert really struck me as a sister dessert to baklava, but with dulce de leche used on it. Some parts of the cake were dryer than others, but the dulce de leche helped to relive some of that dryness. I also really found the presentation of the desserts here pleasing to the eye. I liked the fork marks used in the design on the plate. Really nice touch.
Out of the seven of us, only two of us would order the same thing that we got on this visit the next time we were here. That is not saying a lot about the food that we had on this night. We were kind of all in agreement that the food was fine, but nothing really knocked our socks off here. My dish was the worst, and was also the only one that did not feature red sauce. It was made better when red sauce was added, so my advice is to order something with red sauce. We had some pretty good service during our visit, which is understandable since there were only four tables of people throughout our visit. The lack of customers at Pasta Connection was kind of unnerving as well. We are all looking forward to exploring more of the restaurants near Richard's new house, but with a baby on the way, we are going to have to make more room at the table. Very happy for Richard and his new family.
Out of five soccer balls, (because they serve Italian and Argentine food here, and both of these countries are soccer powerhouses that have combined to win 6 World Cups), five being best to zero being worst, Pasta Connection gets 2 soccer balls.
For more information about Pasta Connection, go to their website here: http://pastaconnection.net/wp/