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Cafe Aldente Is Tucked Away in the Back of a Mini-Mall

Cafe Aldente has been dishing up homemade tastes for more than two decades.

You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we've got a better idea. Each week, Chatsworth Patch picks a great restaurant either in our community or nearby that's worth jumping in the car to check out.

Here's this week's choice:

Hidden in the back of the Times Square Center, anchored by Peets Coffee & Tea,  is a gem of an Italian restaurant that has been quietly serving up some of the most unassuming, homemade Italian food (Calfornia-style) in Studio City since 1988 — and my personal "go-to" place for over a decade. 

This small casual eatery with an outside patio is owned by chef Jim Shahin who makes all his sauces and soups from scratch. 

Cafe Aldente offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is simple and offered all day long with a few egg selections, including a Breakfast Sandwich with eggs, cheese and tomato ($4.95) or the Body Builder with Five egg whites, broiled chicken breast, tomato, mushrooms and spinach ($8.95). Capuccinos and lattes are topped with a strong foam.

Lunch and dinner offers a wide variety of chopped salads, hot subs, cold sandwiches, paninis, pizzas, pasta, main entrée specialties, as well as daily specials. His marinara is thick and tangy with a pure tomato taste. Soups are made fresh daily with no animal fat or dairy. And the meatballs? Forget about it — Shahin makes the best meatballs I can recall. The secret is in the meat blend and the seasoning

All sandwiches come with a choice of green salad, potato chips or pasta marinara. Subs are served on French rolls. Highlights include meatballs with mozzarella cheese, chicken parmagiana, pesto chicken and Philly cheesesteak ($7.95 to $9.95).

Choose from 10 panini sandwiches that are always perfectly melted. Standouts include the The Aldente: Genova salami, ham and mozzarella; No Name (fresh mozzarella with grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, fresh basil, and balsamic vinaigrette); Chicken Salad Panini (shredded chicken breast with walnuts tossed in light mayo); and the Chicken Pomodoro (broiled chicken breast, tomato, basil with provolone cheese), but they are seriously all good ($6.45 to $8.95).

Pizza comes in two sizes — 10-inch and 14-inch. Choose from the gourmet pizza menu or design your own. The dough is made in-house and rolled on the medium-thin side. You can't go wrong. Just pick to your taste ($8.95 to $17.95).

Pasta selections include your choice of pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, capellini) and toppings (including pomodoro, primavera, alfredo, bolognese, pesto, arriabata and more) $7.95 to $12.95.

Lasagna and parmagiana dishes are rich and flavorful — it's the sauce that makes the dish. Parmagiana dishes come with a side of pasta, while lasagna is accompanied by a side salad. Plus, they've got a great weekly pasta special on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 9 pm for $7.95 (pasta and salad) and kids eat free!

If you're interested in a lighter meal, try one of eight chopped salads — simple, fresh are accompanied by bread, garlic toast or homemade garlic rolls with marinara ($8.95 to $10.95).

Entrees range from $12.95 to $21.95 (New York steak) and come with soup or salad. Try the chicken skewers with rice pilaf and hummus, (Middle Eastern rather than Italian), manicotti, salmon or lamb chops. Wine and beer are available, but you are welcome to BYOB with a $4 corkage fee.

Evening ambiance inside is light and family friendly, but grab a table outside on a warm evening with a nice bottle of red — and you've got an instant date night — at a reasonable price.

Got room for dessert? Everything is made in house by Shahin's brother, Rafi. The carrot cake is incredibly moist. Make sure to ask for it warmed up for extra sweet goodness.  The tiramisu is rich with a perfect mix of mascarpone and espresso.

Café Aldente can be rented out for private parties or let them bring the party to you with full service catering. The prices are surprisingly reasonable. Check them out before you go to another chain Italian restaurant. You know the ones I mean.

CAFE ALDENTE 12215 Ventura Blvd.  #112 Studio City www.cafealdente.com (818)985-8055. Open 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Mon-Sat. Closed Sunday.  Breakfast served all day. Wine and beer available.  BYOB $4 corkage. Catering and private parties available on premises.  Free parking and extra parking in garage below.

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