My mom’s family is Italian, and I grew up loving the Italian culture and Italian food. Now, when I say Italian food, I am not talking about Domino’s Pizza, and I am not talking about Presto Pasta. I am talking about real Italian cuisine, those delicious dishes and delectable homemade sauces that take hours to prepare in our own kitchens. Having tried practically every Italian restaurant within 30 miles of my hometown, Simi Valley, I have definitely decided on some favorites. They are Paul’s Italian Villa, Alessio Ristorante, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
First, let me start this by advising that there are two different types of Italian restaurants. There are those that are very Americanized, and then there are those that are more traditionally Italian. The more traditionally Italian restaurants are often “mom and pop” places, but they usually have a reputation for great food and great service. Some chain restaurants can be good too, although most chains are Americanized. The Olive Garden is an example of an Americanized chain Italian restaurant. The creators of The Olive Garden surveyed thousands of Americans about what they wanted in an Italian restaurant, and thus Americans tend to love it. I can’t say that I do not enjoy the endless salad with each meal, and I definitely love the breadsticks there. However, nothing can compare to rich, authentic Italian cuisine.
Paul’s Italian Villa
Paul’s Italian Villa in Simi Valley is your best bet if you are looking for a family-friendly place to eat, but it is certainly fine for date night too. Paul’s has the feel of small town Italy, where the waitresses have been working there for years and often know their customers by name. My waitress remembers exactly what I usually order to drink. Paul is still the owner, and can often be seen wandering around the restaurant, chatting with guests.
The food is delicious, and reasonably priced. They even have family meals that include pizza, pasta, soup or salad, and bread, all for one low price. The dinner for two is only $19.95, and is actually enough for three people. If you are willing to spend a bit more, they also have the most delicious chicken, seafood, veal, and steak dinners too. It is true Italian cuisine, and it is truly wonderful.
Paul’s Italian Villa also has a wonderful Sunday champagne brunch for only $11.95 per adult. They also hold several special events each month. The schedule varies monthly, but every third Friday is always Swing Dance night, which includes a buffet dinner and dancing with a live band, which Paul himself conducts and plays trumpet. It is a very fun evening, fun for a date or the whole family.
For a menu or more information about Paul’s Italian Villa, check out the website:
Alessio Ristorante is a wonderful place to take a date. It has an ambiance that is often hard to find these days. A live pianist, oil lamps on each table, Italian menus, and white linen tablecloths create a wonderfully romantic atmosphere. Alessio has three locations near Simi Valley: one is West Hills, one in Northridge, and one in Westlake. All three are fairly small, so I highly recommend making a reservation, especially on the weekends.
The savory meals are not cheap, but certainly well worth the money. The very authentic Italian food is absolutely delightful, but be prepared to spend between $15 and $20 a meal, not including drinks, appetizers, dessert, or tip. I highly recommend all of their dishes, although the Pollo Alessio is my personal favorite.
For a menu or more information about Alessio Ristorante, check out the website:
Romano’s Macaroni Grill
This is the one chain restaurant locally that I will say has a very authentic selection of Italian food, and has the taste to call it Italian cuisine. It is a family-friendly place; they will even provide a special holder for baby seats, as well as high chairs for older babies. Macaroni Grill provides an interesting combination of fun and sophistication. Kids and adults alike are provided with crayons to enjoy coloring on the paper table cloths, although there is a white linen table cloth underneath. “How to Speak Italian” recordings play in the bathrooms, while classical music plays in the dining room. Guests visiting for their birthday get sung “Happy Birthday” in Italian.
Macaroni Grill is often crowded on weekends, but they do accept reservations for large parties. Since I am not a huge fan of waiting, I recommend dining at Macaroni Grill on a weeknight, or for lunch. My best friend and I often eat at Macaroni Grill for lunch, and we have never had to wait for a table. Although they do not have lunch portions, we have found that their regular portions are so large that we can split a meal and still have leftovers.
The highlight of Macaroni Grill is the tasty foccacia bread that is served at the beginning of every meal, along with extra virgin olive oil for dipping. All of the Italian food there is delicious, and very authentic considering that it is a corporately owned chain. Ask your waiter for a worksheet to create your own pasta dish, and you can decide from a variety of pastas, sauces, vegetables, and meats for your own unique meal.
For a menu, locations, or more information about Romano’s Macaroni Grill, check out the website;