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Restaurant Review

  • Grassroots Natural Market and Kitchen grassrootsB

    South Pasadena is known for being a small, yet, intensely passionate community. If there is a righteous cause, you will be sure to find the support of South Pasadeneans. That sense of community and passion became the perfect incubator for Grassroots Natural Market and Kitchen to take root over 36 years ago.

    Located at 1119 Fair Oaks Avenue in the Vons Shopping Center, Grassroots is a family owned and operated business that relies heavily on their knowledge of the marketplace and an energetic and helpful staff. It has become the first choice of those seeking healthy living options in South Pasadena and beyond.

    When asked what differentiates Grassroots from other health store options, manager Noah Puni is quick to point out that his parents were pioneers in this business. They take pride in having expert staff on hand to offer accurate and educational information regarding their product lines and food choices, as well as help with any lifestyle changes a customer may be going through, all in an intimate environment.

    While this column is normally dedicated to reviewing a local restaurant, Grassroots is so much more. I will shortly describe some of the incredible meals created in their kitchen, but first I need to explain what the Market and Community Outreach aspects offer.

    When you enter Grassroots, you are immediately greeted with a “hello” and offer of assistance. Not once did I see a customer enter, regular or new, that was not greeted with enthusiasm and concern. As you continue past the front door, you find yourself in the midst of the mecca of health conscious living. Shelves are lined with everything from supplements to the finest organic wines to gluten-free snacks to hypoallergenic cosmetics to bio-friendly cleaning products. And then you turn a corner and find organic meat products, vegan alternative choices, vegetarian options, NON-GMO options, alternative dairy products that are non-pasteurized and even gluten-free fresh baked goods like cookies and sweets.

    It might seem too much to take in at first, even if you have been coming for years. This is where the expert staff and management really shine. They are there to answer any question that might arise and point you in the proper direction. If a doctor recommends any dietary change, they will show you the way. Feeling lethargic at work? They will explain common issues and direct you to an answer found on their shelves.

    Grassroots has been a staple in the South Pasadena community for so long, in part, because of their community outreach efforts. Noah Puni mentioned that through their outreach programs, “they help incubate and pilot healthy alternatives.” At least once a month, they offer seminars on a variety of local interests and healthy living topics: from pet adoptions to digestive discussions.

    Oh, did I mention Grassroots has a Kitchen as well? …And a Juice Bar? The kitchen and juice bar very well may be all the education and product choices combined to form the perfect union. Prepared by chefs uniquely qualified, Grassroots Kitchen offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have an extensive menu that will satisfy any craving at any hour of the day. Do not be fooled into thinking the kitchen is only for vegans and vegetarians. I dare even the most ardent meat lover to not find a delicious choice on this menu.

    They have a full breakfast menu. Your choices include everything from creating your own omelette to the crowd favorite homemade pancakes with butter and real maple syrup. Their lunch and dinner offering are even larger. How about something from South of the Border like a burrito or taco? I counted over 15 different choices. Do you care for a Wrap? They make a Greek Wrap, Mid-East Wrap and a Falafel Wrap, just to name a few. Craving a rice bowl? You can’t go wrong with the Grassroots Cuban Bowl, Tempeh or Smoked Tofu Bowl or Teriyaki Bowl. Salads? Of course they have salads. How about a Tossed Taco Salad, Greek Salad or even a Cobb Salad?

    I saved the Hot Entrees for last because that is what Noah Puni served me during my visit. They offer multiple entrée options, but what may be the best choice is their Daily specials. I received a generous plate filled with Chicken Tikka Masala, potatoes and wild rice. This combination made for a visually appetizing display. Once I tasted the meal I confirmed the old adage: seeing is believing. The chicken was tender, well seasoned and flavorful. The potatoes were vegan, gluten-free and tasted better with each bite. Once you added the rice to the plate, it made for delightful meal.

    I was not completely familiar with all that Grassroots Kitchen and Market had to offer before my recent visit. That was my mistake. The passion and sense of community that they create every day fit perfectly into South Pasadena’s DNA. For example, as Noah Puni and I were saying goodbye at the front entrance, Noah greeted one random patron (as he does all patrons). The young lady was just taking a bite of one of their special baked goods when Noah simply asked, “How was everything?” The young lady’s eyes grew bright and wide and responded, “Oh my god!” Nothing more needed to be said. Her obvious pleasure signified another satisfied customer and a reason why the uninitiated should visit Grassroots today!

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        Food Article

        • Stunning Trattoria Neapolis Now Even Better

          When Trattoria Neapolis on South Lake Avenue first opened its doors in July 2012, it wowed guests with its stunning interior, high ceilings, marble detailing and gorgeous bar. Complemented by the Italian-American cuisine and a four-tiered beverage program, Trattoria Neapolis was one of the most anticipated openings in Pasadena that year, won numerous “Best of” awards, and became both a top special occasion and everyday restaurant for locals.
          But owner Perry Vidalakis, a longtime Pasadena resident, was determined to take the restaurant to an even higher level. “Any restaurant has to continue to evolve in order to stay at the top of its game,” said Vidalakis. He recruited a very talented new chef – Clinton McCann – who previously helmed great restaurants in New York City. Together they’ve assembled a top-notch culinary team.
          With the exception of customer favorites, nearly every menu item has been replaced or improved. There’s also an award-winning new head bartender, a new General Manager formerly with Patina for over 10 years, and new staff members in other key positions.
          New to the menu is an “Italian Steakhouse” section. Guests can select from a variety of prime steaks, fish, a pork chop or chicken – all cooked on their custom made wood burning grill and accompanied by a choice of Italian accented sides and sauces.
          There are also high-quality and distinctive versions of Italian-American classics, from Tuscan Meatballs and Crab Arancini to Carbonara and Bolognese to main courses like Pan Seared Cod Cacciatore and Salmon Puttanesca. The focus is on distinctive versions of Italian classics made with high quality ingredients, great culinary technique and made-from-scratch preparation.
          The restaurant has also upped its game on the special event front, with a large number of wine dinners and large private events in their beautiful banquet spaces. The Italian Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays – with dishes like Bolognese Benedict and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes – is among the best in the city.
          What hasn’t changed are the award-winning service and the magnificent bar and beverage programs. And it’s still one of the most gorgeous restaurants in Pasadena – now even better.
          To celebrate the holidays, Trattoria Neapolis will be offering two special cocktails throughout the month of December. The “Fireside” is served warm and includes Appleton Estate V/X rum, brown sugar, butter, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. And for eggnog lovers, “Santa’s Little Helper” is a festive mix of Ron Matusalem rum, homemade eggnog and freshly grated nutmeg.
          The restaurant will also be offering special dishes and its banquet venues are available for holiday bookings.
          To reach Trattoria Neapolis at 336 South Lake Avenue, call (626) 792-3000 or visit