Songs of the Fisherman
Memories of meals past echo from the menu at Stoney Point
By Erica Wayne 11/05/2013
Early in 1984, I reviewed Amedeo Costantino’s stellar restaurant, The Italian Fisherman, in the Braley Building on Raymond Avenue. Almost 30 years later, although The Fisherman closed nearly two decades ago (the historic building, alas, now a Scientology stronghold), Amedeo and I (mere children at the time of that bygone review) are still going strong, I churning out columns for the Pasadena Weekly and Amedeo running the somewhat less opulent Stoney Point, a restaurant he opened in 1994.
I wrote my first review of Amedeo’s Stoney Point (he had taken over the decade-old restaurant after at least two other proprietors had failed to make a go of it) in 1995. Most of what I wrote then is still true today, 18 years later; some things have changed but, by and large, the restaurant (like Amedeo and myself, of course) remains vital if somewhat more mature.
Nestled in the triangle of land framed by Colorado Boulevard, Melrose Avenue and Avenue 64, across the Colorado Street Bridge in far west Pasadena, Stoney Point easily eludes the casual passerby. The diminutive mid-century restaurant (seating perhaps 50) is divided into two distinct spaces: one narrow with a bar, piano and lots of windows; the other squarish with subdued artificial light. A lunch-time visitor once labeled them the sunny and shady rooms. In the evening, I think of them more as the sociable and intimate areas.
The menu, fashioned by a master used to quality classics rather than innovation, is perhaps a bit staid but certainly elegant. Almost as soon as diners are seated, they are presented with tasty bruschette topped with diced tomato, fresh basil, garlic and olive oil. Then, since Stoney Point is blessed with a full bar staffed by an able tender, there’s the choice of cocktails and vintages.
With an excellent martini, warm Italian bread and butter and the menu to peruse, I let my mind drift back to some of the dishes I first tasted three decades ago at The Italian Fisherman, reproduced with exactitude by Stoney Point’s present-day chefs. For instance, there’s a platter of platonic calamari fritti ($10.95), small tendrils and rings lightly floured and fried to perfection, served with a half lemon and a cup of rich not-too-sweet marinara I never feel the need to use.
Two pasta dishes of which I am very fond are Amedeo’s spaghetti with fresh clams sautéed in white wine, olive oil and garlic ($17.95) and his chicken tortellini in cream sauce with prosciutto and peas ($15.95), both of which I remember from The Fisherman. Cioppino, with its mix of seafood and spicy tomato broth ($24.95), and sand dabs ($21.95), lightly sautéed, blanketed with a slightly thickened lemon butter sauce and dotted with capers also stir happy memories of the good old days.
If pasta Bolognese was part of The Fisherman’s fare, I don’t remember it. But my husband orders it repeatedly. The noodles are rigatoni ($15.95), and the homemade ragu is definitely authentic, right down to the chunks of carrot and the coarsely chopped meat (likely a mix of beef and veal) and obviously simmered for hours. My mate also likes the three-inch high filet mignon ($27.95) in barolo wine sauce. And I’ve occasionally sprung for lobster ravioli in lobster/cognac sauce ($17.95) or lamb chops ($26.95) prepared with Dijon mustard sauce and kalamata olives.
In addition to calamari, I almost always order a Caesar salad ($7.95) since, although not made tableside as it was at The Fisherman, it tastes nearly the same: garlic, egg, lemon juice, shaved parmesan, crisply fried garlicky croutons and clearly discernible anchovy (the ingredient that way too many chefs forgo). My husband usually has a bowl of traditional onion soup ($7.95), whose rich beef base and gooey gruyere he finds immensely satisfying, although I think it a bit too salty.
And, speaking of salt, Stoney Point’s chocolate soufflé (a somewhat hefty $18.95 for two — divvied up, baked and served in twin ramekins with a shared bowl of light, sweetened whipped cream) has lately, in keeping with the newest trends, been sprinkled with salt crystals before baking, not a plus for me. Nevertheless, the soufflé (also available in Grand Marnier, raspberry and lemon) makes for a grand finale. Alternatively, the dark chocolate tartufo ($5) and chocolate truffle mousse with raspberry sauce ($6.95) are dandy.
Not everything is perfect at Stoney Point. I sometimes find the side vegetables (especially broccoli) too “al dente” for any but those with the strongest of teeth. And even the “intimate” dining area can get pretty noisy when the restaurant is full. The Web site’s menu (along with Amedeo’s bio) is a bit out of date; a few dishes have been dropped (including “risotto a piacere” which was fun to fashion), and prices have risen. On our visit last week, our attentive server confided that a new menu was in preparation. Fingers crossed that our favorites survive the changes.
Finally, although I hate to mention it, last week’s pianist seemed to be trying to rush through the greatest number of tunes he could muster up in as short a time as possible, syncopating and fragmenting even tender ballads to a few garbled bars. He left his heart in San Francisco but managed to get to New York in record time despite the loss. Truly, he needs to slow it down a bit if he wants to enhance the otherwise pleasantly relaxed ambiance of an excellent dinner at Stoney Point.
1460 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
Full bar/Major cards