Monday, October 30, 2017

A Little Touch of the Irish at Cassano's

818 South El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

Pizza is probably the most subjective food in America. everyone has a preference. New York style, deep dish, Neapolitan, thick crust, thin crust, and that's just the tip of the iceberg before you also consider what toppings don't belong on a pizza. I'm looking at you pineapple. Anyways, with all these different versions of pizzas, any kind of best of pizza list is going to be hotly debated. I prefer deep dish or New York style, but I simply just like pizza. It's an unusual pizza that recently brought us to try Cassano's in San Clemente.

Before we get to that pizza, first a little history of Cassano's. They have been around for 31 years, the first 28 years they were situated near the San Clemente Pier. They lost their lease to Beach Fire Pizza, and opened up the hill, across from Ralph's on El Camino Real. Started by a husband and wife team, Dave Cassano and Sharon Torres, both of whom are from Chicago, but have been California residents since 1976, which pretty much makes them natives by this point. They are no longer married but have remained business partners.

The move up the street has not seemed to deter many locals from coming here. We visited on a recent Sunday evening right about half-past six, and the restaurant was doing a brisk business between the people seated at the cozy nine-seat bar,  the parade of customers waiting for their pickup orders, and those of us dining in the small, but comfortable dining area. The menu at Cassano's is not only pizza driven, (they have 7 house pizzas offered, along with the usual build your own kind), but they also have sandwiches, pasta, starters, and salads. We quickly made our selections and amused ourselves with the football game airing on one of the two TV's above the bar, until our food came out.

Both owners of Cassano's have a salad named after them on the menu, and Katie was very partial to this Sharon's Salad ($10.95). This was a pretty good sized salad, which we ended up splitting. It featured romaine, kale, cucumber, tomatoes, shredded carrots, feta cheese, olives, red onion, and cranberries. It came with a balsamic dressing. The produce was very fresh and I really enjoyed the way that the different textures interacted in this salad. Katie and I had a difference of opinion concerning the dressing, which I found to be too acidic, but I'm usually partial to creamier salad dressings. Katie loved the uniqueness of it, and it was actually her salad so we'll go with what she thinks.

We might as well stay with Katie's selection on this evening. She's very partial to White Pizzas ($8.95), and really enjoyed this version at Cassano's. The white pizza at Cassano's came with some ricotta, a Romano cheese sauce, mozzarella, and was finished off with some basil topping this. Even though this lacked any kind of meat, I still enjoyed the piece that Katie allowed me to have. The crust on this was very good, and I liked that the pizza was not too heavy, but also did not sacrifice flavor. I'm not going to forgo my usual meat lovers pizza for this, but it was still a very solid pizza and one of the better white versions that either Katie or I have had.

I'm not even sure where I learned about this St. Patty's Day Pizza ($8.95), but I've had this on my restaurant list for a long while. It's not even the oddest pizza on the Cassano's menu. That honor would go to the Peanut Butter and Bacon pizza, which also comes with mozzarella cheese. I can't even imagine, but our server swears it's good. I took baby steps by getting this Reuben/pizza mashup. Corned beef, sauerkraut, onions, mozzarella, and a mild mustard sauce accounted for the Reuben feel to this. I was afraid that the mustard sauce was going to overwhelm, but it hid out in the background and allowed the other toppings to be in the forefront. A little more corned beef, and maybe a drizzle of thousand island would have made this even better in my opinion. I'll probably give their bacon and peanut butter pizza a try next time.

I'm a sucker for a good Meatball Sandwich ($9.25) and this one at Cassano's was good. It came with a very sturdy Italian roll filled with five meatballs, cheese, and marinara. The meatballs were tender and meaty, the cheese was nice and bubbly after being left under the broiler, and the only fault I could find with this was that it needed a little more marinara to balance things out. I used the peppers that were served on the side to kick up the heat factor on this. I only ate half of this and had the rest for lunch the next day. As is the case with most Italian food, it was even better the next day. This also came with a little side salad which I picked at after filling up on Katie's salad.

Cassano's is a great neighborhood Italian restaurant. We will definitely be back when we are in the area, possibly after walking the beautiful San Clemente Beach Trail. I thought the prices were more than fair, and the items we tried on this evening were all pretty stellar. We received great service on this night, and it was nice seeing the staff interact with their regulars, but treating us first-timers like the people they see weekly. Glad they have relocated from the pier area, and I look forward to trying more of their menu, but I might chicken out about trying their peanut butter and bacon pizza.

Out of five castles, (because the most dominant feature of the Northern Italian town of Cassano d'Adda is the Borromeo Castle, built around 1000 years ago), five being best to zero being worst, Cassano's gets 3.5 castles.

For more information about Cassano's, head to their website here:

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