Grilling Chef Clinton

With a totally overhauled menu and new chef, Trattoria Neapolis is worth another visit

Friday, November 7, 2014 | 6:30 pm

We’ve noticed a growing trend that deserves attention: New Yorkers are, increasingly, migrating to Los Angeles.Yes, after years of ridicule from the “real” city (I ♥NY), L.A. and the Southland are finally being recognized for the astounding place it is.

Among those transplants is one who has found his way out west into Pasadena and is making some big culinary changes at Trattoria Neapolis on South Lake Avenue. Chef Clinton McCann, Trattoria’s new head chef, was formerly executive chef at Delmonico’s Steakhouse in New York and brings his knowledge of east coast steakhouses to town.

Pasadena Now sat down with the chef to hear about what he and the restaurant have in store for Pasadena diners.

Pasadena Now:  We do understand that upon your arrival at Trattoria you reviewed the entire menu. I mean, as in every single item. Can you tell us a little bit about your process and how all that went?
Chef Clinton McCann:  We really took the menus from the ground up, with a view that nothing is really sacred.  You don’t want keep items for fear of taking them off, which happens a lot. But we really wanted to look at everything and make sure that we do the best version.

PN: Sounds like a lot of work!  What can we expect to see on the revamped menu?
Chef: We’ve made a section called Modern Classics, which is a spin of some traditional Italian dishes like salmon puttanesca and pork saltimbocca and chicken piccata and few others.

PN:  Those are some good options.  Do you have any vegetarian dishes you recommend?
Chef: The pomodoro! We make it as classic as time and as classic as you can get it. [It's] just a great pomodoro tomato sauce, a house-made pasta and a good parmesan cheese.

PN:  So can you tell us about what’s new to the menu?
Chef: We’ve got a big wood burning grill in the kitchen.  I recognized when I got here that 80 percent of our sales were pasta and this beautiful grill is just kind of sitting there. I really wanted to showcase that.

PN: Ooh, a wood burning grill?  Tell us more about that!
Chef: We’ve got the Wood Burning Grill section…which is pretty much like a steakhouse.  You choose your protein and choose your side and choose the sauce.

PN:  That’s a lot of options!  What can we choose from?
Chef: We’ve got nine different proteins.  Four steaks – beautiful grass-fed ribeye, prime New York strip, filet mignon and a hanger steak with all different price points.

PN:  What about something that doesn’t moo?
Chef: We do a house-smoked pork chop that’s fantastic. It takes about three days to make it but it’s beautiful, especially for the fall.  Then we serve them with a choice of nine different sauces that run down the flavor profile.

PN:  Three days just for a pork chop?  That sounds pretty labor intensive.
Chef: You know, I try to just use the freshest ingredients I can. I try not to change them too much.  I really think that that restraint is a good measurement of how well someone can cook. Because anybody can take a mediocre ingredient, cover it [with] three different sauces and have it taste good, you know?

PN:  We definitely do.  Now, tell us about what you’re most excited about with starting your new job at Trattoria Neapolis?
Chef: I’m looking forward to revitalizing the menu. I want to simplify things a bit and make it more familiar and more [of a] neighborhood place. I really want people to come and feel like they’re welcome – and come as much as they can.

Trattoria Neapolis is located at 336 S. Lake Ave, Pasadena.  For more information, please call (626) 792-3000 or visit

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