“What’s the must-have chocolate on your menu?” I ask Luisa as I sip my cappuccino at a small table nestled in a tiny outdoor shopping center at Pasadena’s Burlington Arcade. The table is outfitted with a beautiful pale blue tablecloth, and in front of me is an array of porcelain displaying three chocolate truffles, which have been specially recommended for me.
“My job is not to tell you what is best, my job is to provide you with something that you will recognize as the best for you that day.” She says. Luisa Fabbri, owner of the Contessa Chocolate Collection believes in trying to find the ever-elusive beast of perfection one day at a time. The concept may be a little old fashioned, but the way to have a perfect meal isn’t just about the food, it’s about savoring the ceremony of the meal, however long that might be.
Perhaps that added touch of authenticity is what makes Contessa feel so intimate- intimate in a way that has nothing to do with its small size. Beneath the glass countertop sits a wide selection of chocolate truffles boasting ever-changing unique combinations like Fresh Fig, Smoked Salt with Violet Sugar, and Cardamom. The walls are lined with even more Italian delicacies like top quality olive oil and spreads. Then, of course, there’s the food menu, tempting you with pasta, salmon salad, and fresh fruit entrees. With the help of Luisa’s lovely associate Katherine, I walked out with a red wine chocolate spread and two rose truffles to take home.
Thinking of stopping in for a cappuccino to go? Sorry, but Luisa has another idea. “You would never ask for a glass of wine in a plastic cup to go… but coffee? Cappuccino? Those need to be to go?” She reasons that the five minutes it takes you to really savor and treat yourself to a coffee won’t make a difference in your time schedule, but it will make a difference in your life- it’s sacred. It’s obvious that Contessa was born of Luisa’s talent of knowing great Italian food, but what really makes this place a must see is the passion that is evident behind every sip and every mouthful.
Contessa Chocolate Collection is located at 380 S. Lake Ave in Pasadena.
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We agree with some but not all of this top ten list. Perhaps we will do our own Top Ten in another post. These restaurants are another reason why Pasadena is a great place to be.
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