No question about it- Pala Casino is an impressive casino and hotel property.  The place seems to spring up out of nowhere on the Indian reservation- a veritable oasis of luxury, shiny with fountains and lit up by neon and brass.  You’ll find the excitement and escape of a Las Vegas casino floor- just about an hour east of Oceanside, California.  The real question was, what kind of great Italian food could we expect inside?  The answer: mere seconds after meeting Chef Luciano, and I started getting excited about dinner.

Close-up & Personal with Chef Luciano’s Squid Ink Tagliatelle

Dinner was delicious- there’s no other way to describe it.  Chef Luciano of Mama’s Cucina Italiana offered us a taste of the Felino Salumi he had imported from outside of Parma- it was rich, meaty and toothsome.  He brought out a house-made butter he churns from the by-product of his house-made mozzarella and ricotta.  It was light, delicate and silky.  After all this, he offered a taste of the gnocchi he had filled with a pesto concoction- we could have been in the best trattoria in Italy.

Pesto-filled Gnocchi in a Sage- Brown Butter Sauce

Among the comforting, exceptional Italian dishes we tasted, my favorite was Chef Luciano’s simple pizzetta.  It included one of the freshest, most vibrant tomato sauces, and was topped with a lovely burrata cheese, just barely beginning to melt.

All of this was accompanied beautifully by a mouthwatering traditional Barbera from Renato Ratti.  Delicious, satisfying, authentic and surprising.  Bravo!

Plums, blackberries, sparkling acidity and a luscious backbone of minerality-

Delizioso!

About The Author

I love all things Italian: the beautiful country of Italia, the Italians themselves, the language, the food… and above all, I love Italian wine. The people I meet in my charmed life are fascinating, the wines are extraordinary. I needed a special place like this to write about them, and to remember them.

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