You’ve heard of Barilla. It’s a household name synonymous with quality pasta in all varieties that you can find in supermarkets. What you may not know is Barilla also owns restaurants. The new Casa Barilla made its delicious debut recently at South Coast Plaza, its first West Coast location.
New Yorkers have been experiencing Barilla’s brand of healthful Italian cooking for the past few years thanks to three fast-casual restaurants in Manhattan. However, the rich gastronomy province of Parma, Italy, is where the 140-year-old pasta maker originates.
Further south from Parma is the island of Sardegna, home of Barilla’s chef Alfonso Sanna, who learned to cook in the kitchen of his nonna. Now Sanna takes the lead at Casa Barilla, cooking for families hungry from a day of shopping.
Stately glass cabinetry brimming with semolina products, from farfalle to fusilli, welcome pasta aficionados as they enter, while polished bronze extrusion dies used to form different pasta styles are on display.
By spotlighting fresh, local ingredients, Sanna lovingly recreates flavors from his island childhood. Linguine Vesuvio—a plate of flat noodles, sautéed shrimp and calamari—is tossed with a piquant tomato sauce with olives and capers. Vibrant tomato also permeates the penne al salmone, a colorful dish of toothsome short- tubed pasta scattered with salmon, lemon zest and generously infused roasted garlic.
In contrast, the rigatoni Montanara showcases earthy flavors. Mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano cream sauce are gently tossed with roasted chicken and pasta. Even Casa Barilla’s classic Bolognese-style lasagna is heavenly. Each noodle layer, lined with velvety Béchamel, slow-cooked meat sauce and Parmesan, is fluffy and light.
For plant-based foodies, the focaccia vegetarian delights with distinct tastes from roasted vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and onions. Focaccia, lightly spread with olive tapenade, provides the perfect bread-to-filling ratio, crucial to fine sandwiches. The entrée-sized Mediterranea salad is mixed greens overflowing with cannellini, pinto and garbanzo beans, along with artichokes, tomatoes and onions complemented by a light lemon-olive oil dressing.
If Barilla’s objective is to keep a 140-year-old business feeling fresh, certainly the new Casa Barilla’s seasonal ingredients and wholesome creations will help achieve that delectable goal.