PORTA VIA ITALIAN FOODS
ADDRESS: 1 W California Boulevard #312, Pasadena, CA 91105
My friend Michele and I were making plans last month to go and visit the Huntington Botanical Gardens down in Pasadena, and were in search of an Italian sandwich spot to hit up for lunch beforehand. Our search took us to Porta Via Italian Foods, located about 10 minutes away from the gardens and within walking distance of the Huntington Hospital. The reviews on the place sounded pretty promising, so we decided to give it a shot.
The parking situation can be tricky, since the lot common to the plaza restricts you to only 20 minutes max. There’s probably some street parking nearby, or you can park in the parking structure for the hospital and walk over (which is what I ended up doing). The main area inside Porta Via is actually a marketplace, with a variety of food and drink items for sale. Then you have the cases of the prepared foods: the antipasti, salads, entrées, etc. This is where you go to order your sandwiches, and there’s certainly quite a few to choose from.
All in all, there are 22 different sandwiches that you can pick from, with the delineation between hot and cold sandwiches split right down the middle. I was feeling in the mood for a panini, and after a little bit of deliberation, settled on trying the Autostrada, which had mortadella, prosciutto, soppressatta, dry salami, and pepperoncinis. The sandwich typically comes with provolone as well, but I was trying to avoid the cheese. (Definitely a lot harder at an Italian place, when all of the items that contained cheese sounded good.)
In addition to the sandwich, standing at the prepared foods display case also made me interested to give one of the side dishes a try as well. I ended up tacking on a side portion of the Orzo with Feta and Vegetables, which included cucumbers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncinis, and other fresh herbs.
Even though the inside of the place doubled as a mini marketplace of sorts, there were a few high-tops that you could sit at, but the majority of the seating was outside in the back. They have a nice overhang that they have set up to be able to shade the dining area and prevent the sun from coming down on you directly. Although it was a slight bit on the colder side, there were also some heaters mounted above the seating area to help with that as well.
For me, although I could taste some of the individual flavors of the meats that comprised of my sandwich, I think the size of the sandwich did not justify the $13.50 price tag. If it had been packed with more ingredients, then I could potentially see that. I’m curious about how the paninis compare to the cold cut sandwiches, size-wise, to see if those might be better value, since the price point between the two is right around the same. Perhaps that might be a slight bit of eater’s remorse that I should have gone for a cold cut sandwich instead.
Admittedly, I actually think I enjoyed the orzo pasta salad a little more than the sandwich itself. It tasted pretty fresh, and the flavors of the components were prominent enough that they were able to stand out on their own. The cucumber and olives were definitely the stronger flavors, accentuated with the tangy and sharp taste of the feta. I also liked how the pasta salad was dressed in some olive oil, and you could get the subtle hints of that flavor too. For the $5 side add-on, the container seemed pretty packed with orzo pasta salad, possibly in between that three-quarter to one pound range. I definitely finished off that entire container relatively quickly after making short work of the sandwich as well.
Porta Via definitely has a nice setup inside the main area, with a mini marketplace combined with the prepared foods displayed prominently. The 20-minute parking situation probably does make it a bit tricky at times to stop by, especially if the rest of the plaza is also busy as well. While the quality of the food and ingredients seemed really good, the overall pricing doesn’t seem like you get as much value for the amount of food you receive. That contrast leaves me looking elsewhere to see about finding a go-to spot in the area for Italian deli sandwiches.
Let’s now take a look at the Porta Via Italian Foods Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Autostrada Panini **
Mortadella, prosciutto, soppressatta, dry salami, and pepperoncini. Pictured without provolone cheese.
** Orzo with Feta and Vegetables **
Orzo tossed with olive oil, feta, olives, pepperoncinis, sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs.
And finally, here are my rankings for Porta Via Italian Foods:
Food: 4.25 / 5
The variety of the foods available, between the sandwiches, salads, antipasti, and entrées, was pretty diverse and gave you a lot to choose from. You could taste the quality of the ingredients as well as their freshness.
Atmosphere: 4 / 5
You definitely felt like you were in a market once you got inside, between all of the packaged foods, cooking ingredients, coffee bar, along with the main counter to order your sandwiches, salads, or other prepared foods. The outdoor seating area in the back was also a nice place to sit down and enjoy your food or beverages.
Service: 4 / 5
The employee helping us at the counter was friendly and the food didn’t take long at all to come out to us, probably no more than five minutes after we ordered.
Price: 3.5 / 5
The value I felt for the price point of the food took a hit when the portion size of the panini ended up being a bit underwhelming. My total plate ended up being close to $19, when I’d say I thought it was worth closer to $15, from a portion standpoint.
15.75 / 20
Categories: California, Restaurants
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