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Italian eatery Il Poggio serves Bixby Knolls patrons with a laid-back European flair

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il-poggio.jpgBy Vicki Paris Goodman
Arts and Entertainment Editor

Suddenly Bixby Knolls is the hot spot for new upscale Italian eateries. It’s really quite exciting.
Il Poggio, the trattoria and paninoteca which recently took over the seemingly ill-fated space where New Orleans Grille recently dwelled, has revamped its interior and made it attractive and comfortable. The once characterless room now radiates warmth and charm with its vibrant stained concrete floors, fresh white tablecloths, dark wood accents and whimsical signage. The front patio distinctly exudes the feel of a European sidewalk café.
The wait staff, also mostly European judging from their accents and cheerful but laid back demeanor, are ultra friendly and more than willing, if not perfectly attentive. Put it this way – the service is amiable and competent, and guests are not rushed to make their table available for the next patrons.
But the icing on Il Poggio’s “cake” owes to the fact that on any given day, patrons are likely to be unassumingly greeted, seated and served by owner Stefano Colaiacomo, former executive chef and creator of menus at some of Long Beach’s finest restaurants including L’Opera, The Madison and Da Vinci. So Il Poggio has a built-in “claim to fame” made all the more impressive when contrasted with its down-to-earth neighborhood feel and low profile vibe.
Sam and I made our initial visit to Il Poggio at 6-ish on a Friday evening. We were seated right away at the last available table inside the restaurant. I was somewhat surprised at the extent of menu offerings, which included many appetizers and salads, meat dishes cooked a variety of ways (you choose from several specified methods), unusual pastas, and Il Poggio’s very creative signature panini. In addition, a blackboard on the wall advertised a few nightly specials. I was pleased to see the very reasonable prices of most items.
Our waiter soon brought us a basket of the excellent house-made foccaccia bread I’d heard so much about. It was served with balsamic vinegar for dipping. I’m ashamed to say I prefer butter with my bread, but I didn’t bother to ask for some on this occasion. Even so, I had trouble limiting myself to one piece. It was just so good. In fact, we actually took home the bread that was left.
Sam and I began our supper with the Pasta Fagioli soup ($4.95) and the Spinaci e Melone ($6.95), a fabulous spinach salad with cantaloupe, goat cheese and the most delectable caramelized walnuts. The dressing was a lovely balsamic vinaigrette, which perfectly complemented the large portion of salad. The soup was simple, brothy and comforting with its big white beans and colorful pimentos. This version had no pasta, but we didn’t miss it, either.
Sam’s main course was one of the blackboard specials, an ample and beautifully prepared salmon fillet on yellow tomato slices with shallots and roasted garlic mascarpone ($16.95). I loved the soft mascarpone cheese and shallots with the salmon. Unusual and very nice.
I had ordered the Ravioli di Zucca ($11.50), a plate of freshly made ravioli filled with a subtly sweet mixture of butternut squash, raisins, walnuts and ricotta, sauteed in sage and served atop a zippy spicy tomato sauce. Although it was delicious, this dish would be a good candidate for sharing, since there was no side dish or other accompaniment to provide for some variety of textures and flavors.
We were impressed with our dinner at Il Poggio and vowed to return within the next few days to sample the panini and another pasta dish. We did just that, inviting our friend Cheryl to meet us for lunch.
Lunch time found Il Poggio far less busy and we had our pick of tables. Since it was a mild spring day, we chose the front patio for that sidewalk café experience that had inspired my imagination. The patio had a relaxed feel, which prompted us to order iced coffees and teas while we decided on our orders.
Cheryl and I chose panini, each sandwich an enormous round waffle-like affair that took up an entire dinner plate. I confess the menu’s description— “Our panini are presented on one half square foot Italian foccaccia” —hadn’t quite registered, or more likely I’d just failed to do the math. Needless to say, the panini present an attractive sharing op.
Cheryl’s choice was the Panini Manzo ($5.95), stuffed with tender thin cuts of steak, caramelized red onion, roasted tomato, lettuce and a zesty avocado pesto. It was just delicious. For that matter, so was mine, the Panini Gorgonzola ($5.95), which featured Italian blue cheese, roasted tomato, wafer thin slices of eggplant and fresh basil leaves. Outstanding.
Sam’s Fettucine Casareccia ($9.95) sported extra wide fettucine pasta, more like a pappardelle, which I think are so much fun to eat. The sauce was an understated roasted garlic white wine sauce with thin slices of big juicy mushrooms and large chewy chunks of coarsely textured spicy sausage. Sam and I really enjoyed this dish for its flavor and texture surprises.
The lunch menu appears to be identical to the dinner menu, but with prices slightly reduced.
In spite of its newness, Il Poggio is an Italian café with a well defined and confident identity. It seeks to please its customers on its own terms with food, service and an atmosphere honestly exemplifying its proprietor’s signature style. I am just beginning to discover what Il Poggio has to offer and will no doubt find my own signature way of enjoying this intriguing new member of Bixby Knolls’ restaurant scene. Il Poggio is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood.
Il Poggio is located at 3819 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls (Long Beach). Hours are Tuesday thru Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Monday (lunch only) 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sunday. Reservations are accepted. For more information, phone (562) 424-6800.


2 Responses to “Italian eatery Il Poggio serves Bixby Knolls patrons with a laid-back European flair”

  1. rkjacobs1 on June 9th, 2008 8:07 pm

    Agreed… awesome place. For sure one of the best Italian treats in all of LBch. No compromise on freshness and true Italian cuisine. Hopefully they don’t figure out that they are too cheap on their prices!


  2. happyinlb on February 2nd, 2009 4:43 pm

    I know the story is in the archives…but when I did a search for Il Poggio, I came upon this review and the first thing I saw in the blurb was that they are closed Mondays. I called anyway, because I really want to go there tonight…and they are now open Monday nights! Is there a way to amend the story? I almost gave up without calling…and that would have been too bad for both of us!


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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
Italian eatery Il Poggio serves Bixby Knolls patrons with a laid-back European flair