Bite into the tortellini and one will think only God can make a miracle out of eggs, flour, and water. Smell the aromatic scent of sage bathing in melted butter. It’s the fragrance of heaven. The pumpkin with cream inside the pasta shell is the finishing and final touch of why Celestino Ristorante & Bar will be immortalized in Pasadena’s landscape forever.
Nonna leaves these kinds of dishes to Executive Chef Calogero Drago and the rest of his team. They know what paradise tastes like. Even the Italian fried rice ball, the arancini, is worthy for the Pope to eat.
Italian restaurants are a dime a dozen in this town. Sicilian restaurants are much more rare. When you find one and it’s not just good, but legendary, it’s a keeper. You wish to spend time with the full menu parade and let it serenade you into ecstasy. You want to chat with the merry chef and his front of the house team that takes full ownership in the restaurant as if it were their own.
Every dishes orchestra of flavors derive from the island’s rich Arabic, Spanish, Greek, and French influences. The spaghetti con sarde, a spaghetti dish with fresh sardines, salted anchovy fillets, and wild fennel are pureed into a sauce that comes from Sicily’s North African heritage.
Calogero Drago is one half of the Drago dynasty here in Los Angeles. He is a man that that embraces his namesake. Calogero originates from the latin name Calogerus which means “beautiful elder” and Drago means not only dragon, but also a man who is capable of anything. He carries these definitions in spades.
And knows which pasta noodle specifically goes with which protein. Take for instance the paparadelle with pheasant and morel mushrooms. The wide fettuccine noodles go with the fowl like peanut butter goes with jelly.
Their menu is organized into courses like an emperor’s feast. The order goes soup, salad, antipasto, pasta, fish and meat which can be separated into first course and second courses.
By the time a trifecta of sweets and cakes along with one of the best panna cotta’s in the city hits the table, you are content. Not stuffed. Not full. Content. You have eaten in a celestial place. Your soul is thankful.