A Land of Love

Lasagna Napoletana. Photo by RFD Culinary Director, Tara PunzoneTiramisu Bombe. Photo by RFD Culinary Director, Tara PunzoneSicilian Red Lentil Soup. Photo by RFD Culinary Director, Tara PunzoneCalabrese Stuffed Pepper. Photo by RFD Culinary Director, Tara Punzone

EDDIE RIVERA, Editor, Living Section

6:06 pm | February 10, 2014

It’s the land of Romeo and Juliet, the home of the romantic Spanish Steps, as well as the Bridge of Sighs. Say what you will about the French, the Italians have their love thing down.

And they have their carnivore diet down. In fact, most Italians would be puzzled by the idea of a special diet, or one that doesn’t include meat, let alone cheese.

But Real Food Daily, with stores in Pasadena, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and an outpost in LAX airport, wants to rewrite the Italian menu, as they present their own plant-based St. Valentine’s Day dinner, “Italian, the Language of Love.”

According to Bianca Berzner, assistant marketing director, the 100% vegan and organic restaurant is able to deliciously replicate a full Italian dinner using their own plant-based menu and products. “People are very surprised by the delicious flavors, quality of our food and how full they feel after a meal,” she told Pasadena Now.

The meals are created and developed by their executive team consisting of Culinary Director, Tara Punzone, Executive Pastry Chef, Anthony Nigro and founding CEO, Ann Gentry, the public face of the company. (Gentry herself has appeared on a number of TV shows touting the unique restaurant – including this February’s The Talk on CBS.)

And interestingly enough, said Berzner, most patrons are not even vegans, just passionate foodies – as the food appeals to carnivores and folks who enjoy a true flavorful and healthy culinary experience.

“We find a lot of men and women enjoy the Tex-Mex dishes we have, like our Tac-o’ The Town and Not-Chos, for example. We also have a Spicy BLT and a Reuben sandwich,” said Berzner.

Since the restaurant uses vegetables, legumes and whole grains to create a lot of their entrees, they are able to craft a healthier cheese, for example, using cashews and various seasonings.

But back to Valentine’s Day. The dinner begins with an aged cashew cheese plate, with a cashew cheese, some chocolate balsamic strawberries, truffle mustard and black pepper crackers.

There is also a Sicilian Red Lentil soup with smoked paprika oil and micro greens. The entrée is a Calabrese Stuffed Pepper with smoked quinoa, cici beans, pignoli, roasted garlic pignoli crema, broccoli rabe and botija olives. Pasta lovers can also avail themselves of the Lasagna Napoletana with creamy ricotta, spinach, and crimini mushroom, with fresh marinara sauce.

The Valentine’s Day dinner is topped off with two popular desserts: Tiramisu and Crème Brulée. The Tiramisu Bombe is filled with sweet cream cheese and layers of vanilla sponge cake soaked in espresso and cocoa nibs and dusted with cocoa, cinnamon and maple sugar. The Crème Brulée is made with triple-fold Madagascar vanilla bean custard topped with coconut sugar caramel and fresh berries.

As Berzner points out, “Obviously the food tastes good, but the real benefit is that it’s a healthier lifestyle, in so many ways.”

So, Real Food Daily will be providing the unique menu. You’ll have to provide the romance.

Real Food is located at 899 E. Del Mar Blvd. For more information, call (626) 844-8900 or visit http://www.realfood.com.