Buon Italiano in Camarillo
A lovely Italian gem
By Sarah L. Abrams 05/22/2014
2485 Ventura Blvd.
After suffering through this past week’s heat wave, the last thing I wanted to do was turn on my oven and cook. I was craving pasta (which I do 99 percent of the time) and wanted to try a neighborhood joint. I looked up some local Italian places, and Verona Trattoria caught my eye. My dining companion and I ventured out to beat the heat and fill our bellies.
We arrived as soon as it opened and were promptly given water and bread. Usually I try not to eat bread before a meal, so I do not fill up, but this bread was delicious! The bread was served warm with a strong garlic flavor. The bread was just the way I like it, soft on top with a crunchy crust. To make this even more heavenly, the bread was served with a pesto and garlic olive oil. After devouring two pieces of bread, I was excited to see what else was in store.
After perusing the menu several times, we decided to start with the crispy, breaded artichokes as an appetizer. I love artichokes, but I find that they are usually served the same way: either fried or breaded with some kind of garlic aioli. These breaded artichokes were completely different than anything I’ve tried. Four mini-artichoke bundles were served on a plate in a garlic and lemon sauce. Each artichoke was perfectly breaded, maintaining a crispy outside with a soft, warm artichoke inside. The sauce was what really made this dish shine. It was a combination of butter, lemon juice, white wine, parsley and a lot of garlic. The sauce was rich from the butter, and the lemon juice provided just the right amount of tang and tartness to compliment the artichoke. The serving size was perfect for four people, but the sauce was so good I could’ve easily eaten the whole plate by myself.
For the main courses we had the chicken piccata, served with a side of pesto alfredo pasta, and the lasagna. The chicken piccata wound up being my favorite dish of the evening, which is ironic, considering I almost never order chicken at restaurants (mostly because it is bland and I can usually make it at home).
I am so glad I broke away from my stubbornness and ordered this. The chicken was moist, juicy and perfectly cooked. In “traditional piccata form,” the chicken was pounded out until thin and tender. The true masterpiece of this dish was again the sauce. The sauce was a lemon, garlic and caper sauce. I was most surprised at how different this lemon sauce was from the appetizer sauce. This one was less tangy, but had a bitter and saltier flavor from the capers. The sauce was thicker and coated the chicken, while having a more robust flavor. I appreciated that the chef didn’t go crazy with the salt because just a few capers provided a salty element that enriched the meal. The chicken was served with steamed broccoli and carrots. While the vegetables were OK, they didn’t really add to or detract from the meal.
The second dish we tried was the specialty lasagna. It was a large square portion, covered in mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. Stuffed inside was a filling of beef, veal and pork. I have mixed feelings about the lasagna, but purely because of a personal preference. The sauce was a very sweet red sauce, something that I am unfamiliar with. I just do not particular enjoy a savory dish served with a sugary sweet sauce. The actual lasagna itself was well-prepared, with many layers of fresh-cooked pasta, meat and cheese. I happen to enjoy my lasagna smothered in sauce, but this particular kind I had to enjoy sans sauce. My dining companion agreed that the sauce was too sugary, but thought that the pasta and meat were tasty and well-cooked. This dish was definitely something out of the ordinary and not for me, but to each his or her own.
The last side dish we had was the pesto alfredo pasta. The pasta was slightly al dente and chewy, just the way I like it. The alfredo sauce was creamy, but the pesto helped to cut the richness from all the butter and cream. Both flavors were present and I appreciated that it combined two of my favorite ingredients to create a hearty and filling dish.
We left feeling full and satisfied but not stuffed. I usually need a wheelbarrow to cart me out of Italian restaurants, so I was pleased with how light I felt. I enjoyed my meal, but also the casual chic atmosphere. This restaurant is perfect for a romantic date or evening with friends. There is a lovely outdoor patio with heat lamps that will be perfect for the upcoming summer evenings. The inside reminded me of a rustic village, with decorated ceiling panels, small couches and wooden chairs. With great food, service and a delightful atmosphere, I will definitely be returning.