Friday, November 7, 2014

Taking a Break at Aldo's in San Juan

Aldo's Sidewalk Caffe
31882 Del Obispo St. 
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

I never knew how much stuff really went into planning a wedding. Yes, I have been to weddings before, but I never really thought about getting the flowers together, picking colors, getting a DJ, acquiring an officiant, gathering addresses, shooting save the date pictures, picking out formal attire, selecting a honeymoon spot, finding the perfect venue, and all the rest that goes into it. Most of the time I just sit here thinking how much easier it would be going to Vegas or swinging by the OC Courthouse. Of course that's not going to happen with Katie's large family, and my large group of friends. So when it's a rare night that we are not wedding planning, going out with friends, or attending a food event, we want to stay close to home and relax. That's when I go on Yelp to find a restaurant with a good amount of stars and plenty of reviews. That's how we came upon this place, Aldo's Sidewalk Caffe.

Aldo's has four solid stars and 121 reviews on Yelp, so we headed three exits down the 5 Freeway to try this place out. In a city known for some pretty good Mexican food, Aldo's has been in business for twenty years in San Juan. Located in the big shopping center off of Del Obispo, Aldo's is right next door to a Subway, and near the Marshall's.

On this Saturday night we were greeted warmly by whom we perceived to be Aldo, even though no formal introduction was ever made. This restaurant is not overly huge, with six tables inside, and a good majority of the customers opting to sit outside on their eight table patio. Aldo made his rounds from table to table talking to each customer as if they were lifelong friends. On this night they were not overly busy, but we hear that during all you can eat pasta night, which is on Wednesdays, this place gets a little crazy. The menu is typical Italian fare, with a good amount of sandwiches offered, pasta dishes, salads, and meat dishes thrown in. We made our choices, and waited for our food to arrive.

We were presented with this bread to start things off. The bread here was pretty standard. I liked that they placed it on the grill for a few seconds, and that it was served warm. The packaged butter was served at just the right temperature, so that it was spreadable, without being too warm. Other than that, just kind of average bread.

I've said it before, but I really like that most Italian dinners include a salad with the meal. Wish more restaurants would do this. At Aldo's Sidewalk Caffe, you get a Caesar salad with each meal. As you can see in the picture, the produce was fresh and bright green. It was sprinkled with a good amount of grated Parmesan. The dressing left a little to be desired though. It was more of an oily Caesar dressing, instead of my preferred creamy variety. The menu claims that their Caesars have croutons included, but not one was found in this salad. Having croutons would have helped by adding some texture and flavor to this good sized salad.

I was not too excited by any of the four appetizers that were offered here at Aldo's, but Katie really wanted to try their Bruschetta ($5.95), so that's what we ordered. There was a lot going on with this bruschetta. Toasted bread was topped with basil, garlic, Kalamata olives, red onions, and of course tomatoes, then tossed with olive oil. I'm not a big fan of bruschetta, but Katie felt this was one of the messier ones that she has had. The bread did not stand up to the weight of the toppings, and this version was a little more oily than it should have been. Not awful, but a little awkward to eat.

Definitely not the most photogenic of plates, Katie's selection was this Ravioli with Smoked King Salmon ($14.95). With this dish the cheese ravioli was topped with salmon and a garlic cream sauce. Katie really enjoyed the creamy sauce, and I used her excess to dip the bread in after she was done. She would have liked the salmon in bigger pieces though. She was also pretty impressed with the well made pasta on this plate. A very filling dinner, she would get this again sometime.

As is my usual routine in an Italian joint, I always have a hard time picking what I want to eat. I went a little out of my norm by ordering a chicken dish. The Penne Veneziane ($14.95) was a very generous serving size. Joining the pasta on the plate was chicken, garlic, mushrooms, and red pepper flakes, all in a tomato cream sauce. I really enjoyed the sauce with this, but it was not spicy like it was advertised on the menu. After I asked for more red pepper flakes, this became more enjoyable and awakened my taste buds. The chicken was kind of lost here, as it was cut in very small pieces. Good, but I'd probably try something else on my next visit.

Both Katie and left Aldo's Sidewalk Caffe pretty full. We did not even contemplate getting dessert, so you must know that we were pretty stuffed. I liked Aldo's but was not in love with it. Since it's so close to our home, we will definitely be back on nights we don't want to venture too far. I've heard good things about their sandwiches here, and I might try some other pasta dishes in the future. Service was pretty spotty during our stay. Our waiter was nice, but refills and clearing of the plates did not seem to be his forte. I thought the prices were pretty fair. I found a menu online for this place, but it was from 2007, and much to my surprise Aldo's prices have only gone up fifty cents on some items, and a lot of the items have stayed the same. Pretty crazy that in 7 years no prices increases. There's probably not a lot of restaurants where that's the case. Aldo's was a very nice break from all the wedding chaos, but now I have to get back to gathering peoples addresses for save the date magnets. Ugh.

Out of five motor buggies, (because in 1910 there was a motor buggy available named the Aldo, which sold for $395), five being best to zero being worst, Aldo's Sidewalk Caffe gets 2.5 motor buggies.

Aldo's does not have a website, but you can check out their reviews and other info on their Yelp page here:

Aldo's Sidewalk Caffe on Urbanspoon

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