Located near the intersection of Hoover and West 32nd streets, Casa Barilla opened to the USC community on Monday afternoon as part of a long lineup of new businesses at USC Village. Originating in New York City and with two stores in Dubai, this marks the pasta restaurant’s second location in California.
When entering the newly opened restaurant, visitors will immediately notice the establishment’s detailed atmosphere. Small additions such as wine glasses behind the counter or Mediterranean cuisine books neatly stacked in the bookshelf make the environment feel even more welcoming.
Patrons are first met with two touchscreen tablets under cabinets of dry pasta, which is one of two options for ordering. The other option is to order through the front counter, receive a number stand and have food delivered to the table.
Casa Barilla’s overall layout is unlike that of a typical restaurant, as the front counter and dining area create an “L” shape. Customers are presented with a variety of seating choices from casual outside tables and rotating high stools to a long table for larger groups. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with white tiles and hardwood floorboards, adding a refined Italian touch to the place.
The workers care about the restaurant’s cleanliness and the customers’ needs. They are quick but efficient in cleaning tables and reorganizing small things like number stands and the jars of dry pasta that are on display on the tables.
However, the restaurant falls short with its prices. The food is presented nicely on a white plate, but the portion does not feel reflective of the slightly expensive price. A penne al salmone with shrimp, instead of salmon, costs $7. With the only modification to the dish being the meat, this moderate portion of pasta and salmon is not worth its $12.95 value.
This is mostly because there doesn’t seem to be anything too special about the dish, aside from the presentation. The pasta felt slightly undercooked, but its flavor didn’t suffer. With a 45-minute wait for the dish, the pasta should have felt soft instead of coarse because the cooks had more time to prepare the dish. The tomato sauce made this dish feel slightly average. However, the tiny shrimp did taste very well-cooked, and the lemon zest enhanced the dish’s taste even more.
Fortunately, there is a wide array of different menu items. Even though the restaurant is best known for its pasta, it also offers pizzas, paninis and salads. Each type of food has many different entrees made with a variety of ingredients, such as bacon and capers. Casa Barilla also provides more variety with specific pasta preferences such as gluten-free or protein plus. It also offers vegan and vegetarian dishes.
The restaurant also offers three breadsticks for just $1.50. However, their presentation in traditional fast food restaurant wrappers feels contradictory to the “elevated casual” mood of Casa Barilla.
Overall, Casa Barilla combines friendly service, an appealing atmosphere and a wide variety of menu items to make a restaurant that is worth checking out if you’re in the mood for Italian food. Despite the pricing problem and a few minor food issues, Casa Barilla will be sure to draw in a hefty number of students eager to try USC Village’s newest addition.