Trattoria Limone offers inventive Italian fare

trattoria-limone.jpgTrattoria: an informal restaurant or tavern.
Limone: lemon.
I assure you Trattoria Limone is no lemon. Far from it. In fact, with its location on Orange Avenue, and a few blocks west of Cherry, the charming new upscale eatery is fast becoming the apple of my eye.
Truly, I just love having a fine Italian restaurant within walking distance of our Bixby Knolls home (not on a fruit street). It’s a city-meets-suburbs thing that makes me feel like I’m cheating. I can live in the peaceful environment of the ‘burbs, and I don’t have to drive to be where the action is. Perfetto!
We arrived at Trattoria Limone at 6 p.m. on a Friday evening, just before the place filled up completely. Greeted warmly by restaurant staff, we had our choice of immediate seating at one of two tables in the “kitchen area” near the entrance, or a few minutes wait for a table in the main dining room. After considering a third option to sit at what I would call the “food bar,” which offers close-up views of the kitchen and meal prep areas, we decided to wait for the dining room. But that “food bar” is a definite must for some future visit.
Comfortably seated at our table, and having ordered a glass of red wine from an ample listing of wines by the glass, we perused the restaurant’s surprisingly inventive menu. Of the standard menu items and daily specials, few were the usual fare. And those that one would find on other Italian restaurants’ menus were different at Trattoria Limone. For example, the Linguine alle Vongole (linguini with clams) is loaded with sliced mushrooms and offers a discernible kick from its chopped chili peppers. A wonderful enhancement of a classic dish!
On the chilly evening we visited, Sam and I started by sharing a bowl of Stracciatella, an Italian egg drop soup that can only be described as comfort food. With a lovely savory broth, swirls of egg and baby spinach leaves, this soup is simple and honest. It warms the soul. I like to sprinkle a bit of lemon juice into it. So nice.
Our friendly and attentive server brought us a plate of the restaurant’s signature versions of garlic bread and bruschetta, both delicious.
For his entrée, Sam had chosen the Tortellini al Ragu ($14), hand-rolled pasta rings filled with smoked chicken and topped with a fresh Bolognese sauce. The stuffed pasta had an unusual and excellent smoky flavor, with a sauce that was loaded with large chunks of ground meat. This dish surprised me it was so good.
For my part, I ordered one of the day’s specials, the Pollo alla Cacciatora ($16.95), consisting of a tender, juicy free-range chicken breast with a fresh tomato sauce featuring baby portabellos, two kinds of Italian olives, chopped red peppers, garlic, wine and fresh herbs. Served alongside was a generous helping of linguine al pesto with whole pine nuts. What struck me about this delicious dish was its fresh tasting ingredients and made-to-order quality. I was very happy.
A bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese was brought to the table without us having to ask. I liked that, too.
We had ordered an interesting and tasty side dish of green beans, broccoli and cauliflower sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with bits of chopped tomato, fresh garlic and herbs. The vegetables were fresh and delicious. I would have preferred them to be served with our entrees instead of as an appetizer, but they were very satisfying either way.
For dessert, it had to be the daily special Crostata di Pera-a freshly baked pear tart in an exquisite pastry crust served with vanilla bean gelato. I think this is one of the five best desserts I’ve ever tasted.
Trattoria Limone also features what looks like a wine and espresso bar at the far end of the main dining room. When we inquired about the restaurant’s Wine Bar “policy,” our extra polite bus boy told us that when the restaurant is extra busy, you can even order dinner at the Wine Bar, but only when they are extra busy. Sounds good to me.
We so enjoyed our dinner at Trattoria Limone and plan to return often. All I can say to owner/chef John Huson is welcome to the neighborhood. I’m very glad you’re here.
Trattoria Limone is located at 3405 Orange Avenue (at Wardlow Road) in Long Beach. Open for dinner only Tuesday through Sunday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. No reservations are taken. Wine and beer are available for service while dining or at the restaurant’s Wine Bar. Ample street parking is available. For more information, call (562) 424-3752.

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