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Cafe Pasta Pronto

Killer Lasagna
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Just about everything about Café Pasta Pronto is a dichotomy. It resides in a strip mall right off Interstate 5 at Via de la Valle, indiscriminately tucked behind an in-your-face McDonalds with an Albertsons as a backdrop. When you actually find Pasta Pronto and walk in, the glass enclosed cases with prepared foods leads you to believe you’ve entered a upscale deli. Even the name itself gives the implication of a grab-and-go environment.

Ahh, but the illusion of Café Pasta Pronto is just that. Peel back the layer of first impressions and move past the entrance and you will find a comfortable, inviting and downright delicious Italian restaurant. One half of this writing team visited Pasta Pronto on several occasions (monthly jaunts to Los Angeles and starving while driving back led to discovering Pasta Pronto). Having tried to get the other half to try it was a chore. Why? Again the name Pasta Pronto does not exactly sound like a destination point, but the fates intervened and we found ourselves in Del Mar, hungry with a half an hour to kill before a hot air balloon ride (that’s another story).

Our group of five stormed in to Café Pasta Pronto with an appeal to the staff – “we have 30 minutes and we need dinner. Can you help us?” A wry smile and gleeful nod from our server let us know that we were in good hands. He confidently informed us that we could order anything from the front cases (including many delightful dishes from salads to pastas and sandwiches) and told us what menu items could be at our table in less than ten minutes. Now that’s service. We ordered and then soaked up the venue.

From the front you would never guess the depth of space Café Pasta Pronto occupies. Past the cases in the entrance you’ll find a spacious dining area of simple tables and design. Venturing further takes you onto the patio with even more seating under pleasant umbrellas. The menu has a multitude of items to choose from. House made soups and concoctions like Portobello salad, salmon salad, the classic Caprese and even a Caesar with rigatoni tempt ever palette. Sandwiches abound, numerous quiches, and then there are the Chicken and pasta entrees.

Gorgonzola Sandwich
Copyright©2009 sandiego.com, Inc.

Our merry band took different paths to settle our appetites. From the deli case a melted gorgonzola on polenta was chosen, and while a simple dish, it was extremely satisfying and very tasty. A ravishing tiger shrimp salad comprised of mixed greens, roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts and grilled shrimp marinated in fresh herbs and dill cream sauce that was refreshing, satisfying with a healthy sampling of perfectly cooked shrimp. A delightful Caprese sandwich of fresh mozzarella, basil homemade pesto, roma tomatoes, avocado and spinach was easily enough for two and, more importantly, was a wonderful, gratifying meal. Crisp, fresh and delicious. Rounding out the entrees and saving the best for last was the amazing lasagna made with lean ground beef, fresh marinara and cheese. This dish truly left us spellbound with its rich, flavored sauce and finely tuned pasta. Another killer meal was the beef with pasta dish akin to a childhood favorite with its savory beef tips simply overflowing with sauce over a sea of pasta. Desserts are a plenty but our 30 minute window had expired and we couldn’t partake but the toasted macadamia cheesecake and homemade apple bread pudding cake are mighty appealing.

Café Pasta Pronto is truly a secret treasure. The service was dead on and took care of our small window of eating time with grace and charm. Prices were right and they fulfilled our every need. There are even glutten and wheat free selections. Now who woulda thunk a strip mall restaurant would have all of that? Believe us Café Pasta Pronto does. Great place for kids too. Enjoy!

The good – what a rare find in your basic run of the mill strip-mall

The bad – same as above, very odd location

Details »
  • City: Del Mar
  • Phone: 858-481-6017
  • Name: Cafe Pasta Pronto
  • Address: 2673 Via de la Valle