Tag Archives: USA

A-Z Challenge: QUESTIONS (& answers) about my life here in New Zealand

James and Alexa Rae at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comMy boyfriend James is a big fan of Reddit, a site known for their AMA “Ask Me Anything” interviews.

I thought that a Q&A would be a fun way to post about the letter Q in my seemingly never-ending alphabet blogging challenge.

So… on Facebook I asked my friends and family to send me their quandaries. Scroll down to see my responses.

___________

How many hours difference are you from San Diego?

Well, it depends on the time of year actually. Right now, we in New Zealand are nineteen hours ahead of San Diego (or I like to think of it as five hours behind but a day ahead haha).

That will change when each of us (NZ & California) goes through Daylight Savings. It will change to 20 hours ahead and then 21 hours ahead.

 

How does working there compare to here?

Let’s see…

Here in New Zealand there is a 90-day trial for every employee. Before you hit 90 days at your place of employment you can basically be let go without reason.

Our salaries are a bit higher (but our dollar is weaker and cost of living fairly expensive) so it ends up being somewhat similar.

 

What are the benefits like?

In New Zealand we get many more days of paid annual leave (the minimum for everyone is four weeks but some businesses offer even more).

We also have PAID parental (yes, BOTH parents) leave (which will move from 16 weeks to 18 weeks next year), as opposed to the US – which federally speaking has zero paid leave and only 12 weeks unpaid leave… California does now offer six weeks at 55% of your salary.

And if you’re wondering why I know so much about parental leave? I wrote an article on it a few weeks ago.

 

When’s the wedding and am I invited?

Ha! Not anytime SOON – we are not even engaged!

 

What are your work colleagues like, and are their accents the coolest ever?

Yes, Heath. Your accent is awesome. haha And you, along with all of my co-workers, are pretty darn great! I feel very fortunate to work with such a dynamic group of people. There’s a fantastic energy in our office.

 

View on the kiwi foodie scene?

The amount of health food restaurants and stores is incredibly impressive for its size!

One of the things that stands out most about the food here is how fresh it is. It just tastes more real and fresh off the vine if that makes sense.

 

And what would you recommend to those travelling to NZ?

In terms of food? If you’re in Auckland I really love Mexico, ironically. I didn’t even like Mexican food when I lived minutes from the Mexican border. But Mexico is a really fantastic restaurant with a few different locations around AKL.

In terms of just regular travel? In summer I absolutely LOVED spending a few days on the island of Waiheke just off the coast of Auckland.

I would also definitely recommend the Coromandel Peninsula and Cathedral Cove as well as the Glow Worm caves down in Waitomo and hiking Duder Regional Park in Maraetai.

But honestly… this country is the most beautiful and diverse place I’ve ever been to. Everywhere you turn it is absolutely stunning. There truly are endless opportunities for adventure here.

 

Are you an All Blacks fan?

Sure am! I even have an All Blacks jersey! But I’m still figuring out how rugby works…

 

Do you say mate yet?

I don’t say mate and I don’t think I ever will. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t come naturally like some other kiwi words do.

 

Other than missing family & friends, what’s been the most difficult thing to adjust to and how do you deal with it?

Driving and the weather.

I have managed to conquer driving on the left – with the steering wheel on the right. Well, for the most part.

The weather? Still a daily struggle for me. It’s not the arctic or anything but WOW. It really FEELS like it.

I’ve had to go out and buy new clothes – including merino wool tops, wool socks, more tights/leggings, more thick sweaters, more boots, etc.

I also have had to purchase an electric blanket which has made a massive difference in the evenings!

I now use a room heater in the bathroom for when I get out of the shower and I wear a robe, and slippers or house socks pretty much constantly when I’m home.

 

What is the main differences in food compared to the U.S.? In terms of what people eat, the taste, fruits, etc.

Food in New Zealand is generally a bit healthier — less processed, smaller portions and so on. Supermarkets don’t look that different really but people appear to eat somewaht less fast food and more homecooked meals, and you can tell the differences in sizes at the movies for example.

There’s a lot of pumpkin/kumara served here which makes me a very happy camper! And definitely a British influence in the food – the commonality of things like savoury pies, fish and chips, etc.

 

How different are the road rules other than driving on the other side of the road?

I’m still getting a hang of that.

The first thing that comes to mind… ROUNDABOUTS! And I actually LOVE them. They scared me for the first couple months but now I can’t imagine life without them. They’re so much more functional than sitting at red lights for forever.

In more rural New Zealand there are one-way bridges where one side yields until there are no more cars coming, which I’ve never seen in the US.

The speed limits in the US are a bit higher and I think I still drive at US speeds – oops! But I haven’t been caught yet. Only by James.

 

How did your perception of kiwis change after you moved here (if it changed at all)?

Hmm… I think I just learn every day how friendly kiwis are. I personally find them very welcoming and warm, more so than the average Los Angeles resident.

They have a wee bit (see what I did there?) of that formality that Americans associate with the UK. Sort of a sophistication. Well. Some kiwis. ūüėõ

 

What do you wish the US had that NZ does and what do you wish NZ had that the US does?

I wish NZ had Target! And quark. And less-expensive shopping. And warmer weather. And currency as strong as the USD. And my family. I really miss them.

Hmm… I wish the US had the lifestyle that NZ has. And the amazing level of healthcare that NZ has. And the far lower crime rates. Children walk home from school here without the fear that they’ll be kidnapped. Police in NZ don’t carry guns or even tazers. It’s very safe and you can feel that.

 

What’s the main differences in lifestyle from the U.S. To NZ?

New Zealanders have a healthier work-life balance. Americans live to work, where in NZ it’s more about working to live. The focus here is on enjoying life – BBQs with friends on the weekend, an emphasis on O.E. (Overseas Experience) for young adults, etc.

People here just seem more ALIVE, instead of simply going through the motions. I never noticed that the US is like that until I spent more time here and realized how much people

 

If you have any other questions for me ask them in a comment below and I will add them to the post!

5 Highlights of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington

Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Seattle. Land of rain, coffee, grunge, Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Costco and Amazon…

Also the closest major American city to my god son’s family.

A Very Brief History Lesson on Pike Place

Located on First Ave and Pike St, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest operating public farmers markets in the entire USA.¬†The market, which opened in August 1907, was built on a steep hill overlooking Elliott Bay with the goal of offering regular consumers the chance to “meet the producer”.

With 10 million visitors a year it is one of the most visited attractions in the Pacific Northwest. It is filled with farmers and craftspeople looking to offer their produce and products to both locals and visitors.

TIP!: The best places to park are Western Ave., 1st Ave., and 2nd Ave.

Main entrance sign at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

These are my highlights from our morning at Pike Place Market. Feel free to add YOUR highlights in the comments below! I’d love to hear them!

1. THE ORIGINAL STARBUCKSOutside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com You can’t start your day at Pike Place Market without first stopping at the original Starbucks.

Being a 23-year-old American female I am basically a religious follower of the coffee brand.

Okay… maybe that’s taking it a little far. But barely.

Outside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Starbucks is one of the largest business chains in the world – with nearly 21,000 stores across 64 different countries!

And it all started in Seattle in 1971. The actual very first location, which only sold coffee beans and not fresh brewed drinks, was closed down and then moved to this location in the mid-70s.

Even if you don’t like coffee, this is still a cool place to visit from a entrepreneurial/business¬†frame of mind.

Outside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States with my cousin Johnny via ZaagiTravel.com

When I landed in Seattle my cousins and I headed from the airport straight to the mecca of caffeine addicts.

Can you tell I was excited?

I was surprised to learn that the original store has been kept in it’s most simple state – only serving certain drinks. And that’s all.

It’s kind of refreshing to enter a vintage version of the mega-coffee-maker. I’m all about bringing things back to basics.
Inside the Original Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Fun STARBUCKS facts and a tip:

— ¬†The brand was first going to be called Pequod, after a whaling ship from the book Moby Dick. Instead, it was named after the chief mate on the Pequod, Starbuck.

— ¬†The first Starbucks location outside of the U.S. opened in Tokyo, Japan in 1996.

— If you normally order a latte… stop. Order a cafe misto. It’s very similar to a latte but less expensive (and tastier in my opinion). You can have it plain or add pumps of your favorite flavoring.

View from Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

2. The Fish Market

The fish guys are world famous for their fish-throwing ways.

It apparently all started when the workers grew tired of walking back and forth to retrieve a fish a customer ordered. They decided to keep a worker in the back with all the fish who would toss the order up to the front, saving time and energy.

Seafood for sale at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comFunny sign at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

I particularly liked this sign – “We sell only wild salmon caught by wild fisherman”.

The other fish and produce market’s around Pike Place are impressive also!

Fresh fish being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Fish being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Inside of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comInside of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Inside of Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com Main entrance sign at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com3. Flowers at the market

Thousands of flowers line the hallways of the upper street level. Flowers of every color and shape. The tulips here are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen!

And when do you NOT need flowers in your life?

Flowers are always a good idea.

Flowers being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comFlowers being sold in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

4. The Market Theater Gum Wall in Post Alley

The infamous gum wall is located in Post Alley, just around the corner from Pike Place Market.

The tradition began back in 1993 when patrons would place coins in blobs of gum and stick them against the alley wall. It caught on, and by 1999 the wall was deemed an official tourist attraction.
The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com My cousins and I couldn’t pass up the chance to make our mark on one of the “germiest” attractions in the world.

We each popped a piece of gum and started chewing away while we scoped out where we wanted to place our sticky artwork.The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com This is me placing my piece of gum on the wall as my little cousin Sidney looks on.

How “Seattle” is this picture? Starbucks in hand, scarf around my neck, placing my gum on the gum wall….The Gum Wall outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com That’s my piece in the very center above. That long stretched-out sort-of white piece. Ain’t she a beaut?IMG_7183Outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

5. Food Highlights

A: The ConfectionalPeanut Butter Chocolate Mini Cheesecake from the Confectional outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.comMini peanut butter cheesecake and cheesecake-on-a-stick from The Confectional. No description necessary.
Mini Cheesecake on a Stick from the Confectional outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

B: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

Beecher's Handmade Cheese Curds being made at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, USA via ZaagiTravel.com I HIGHLY recommend the mac n cheese from Beecher’s! It’s just phenomenal. Big penne-style pasta and creamy flavorful cheese sauce. It’s addicting. I warned you.
Menu at Beecher's Handmade Cheese outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Macaroni and Cheese & cheese curds from Beecher's Handmade Cheese outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

Cheese curds from Beecher's Handmade Cheese outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States via ZaagiTravel.com

C: La Buona Tavola

Leek & Potato Soup with drops of Truffle Oil from La Buona Tavola at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, USA via ZaaiTravel.com

Leek and potato soup (with a few drops of truffle oil)

So while I didn’t order an entire bowl of this awesomeness, I should have…

The sample I was given was TO DIE FOR – clearly, I downed it all before I could even get a photo. If/when I go back to Seattle I’m coming back here and getting a big steaming bowl of it!

Leek & Potato Soup with drops of Truffle Oil from La Buona Tavola at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, USA via ZaaiTravel.com

So… those are my Pike Place Market (+ surrounding area) highlights.

What are yours?! Comment below and tell me!

Day Date in Laguna Beach, California: What to See, Eat & Do

View of Laguna Beach boardwalk, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Laguna Beach, an upscale, coastal, & artistic Orange County community in Southern California, is famous for a variety of reasons: the “Laguna Beach” reality television show, the Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters,¬†the Sawdust Art Festival, it’s gorgeous, snorkel-worthy beaches, the list goes on and on…

View of Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

There’s no denying it’s a beautiful place any direction you look. It’s also chock-full of great food, great shopping, and great views.¬†Here are some of my favorite things to do on a day-trip to Laguna Beach.

So grab your mom, your dad, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your husband, your wife, your best friend, your dog, your grandma, your grandpa, your daughter, your son, your pet rock! Grab them and enjoy a day here with my best recommendations to get the very most out of your day in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Cinema in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

What better way to begin a day-date than with… a movie.

The small Laguna South Coast Cinema is a cool place to catch the latest flick. Adult tickets are only $8.50, or $6.00 for a matinee (before 5:15).

Afterwards grab a bite at my absolute favorite restaurant in Laguna Beach, The Cliff, located in the Laguna Village. The restaurant offers a reasonably priced valet parking service for your convenience.

Entrance to the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Here is one of the many reasons I love eating at The Cliff. Just let that view sink in.

View from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

If you can tear your eyes away from the turquoise waves long enough to take a glimpse at the menu, you’ll find a variety of¬†delicious seafood options, as well as sandwiches, burgers, salads, and so on.

Menu at the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Did I mention the view?

View from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Alright alright, back to the food.

Scallops Wasabi from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

I recently ordered two “Scallops Wasabi” for the first time. They’re described as “raw scallops on the 1/2 shell topped with seaweed salad, pickled ginger and wasabi cream sauce”. As of March 2014, pricing is¬†$3 ea. / $25 doz.

Scallops Wasabi from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Now… let me just say… I love seafood. I love sushi. I love scallops.

These scallops were the BEST scallops I’ve ever had. They were SO GOOD. If you like raw seafood (i.e. sushi), you have to try these. I could eat these everyday for the rest of my life. A little tang, a little spice, a little crunch, a lot of YES.

Fish and Chips, well fruit, at the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

My mom ordered Fish N Chips ($16), minus the chips, plus fruit. So. Fish N Fruit you could say. I had a bite of hers and it was ALSO some of the best fried fish I’ve had. Light, not oily, and flavorful.

Halibut Laguna at the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

For my main entree I had Halibut Laguna ($25), “fresh grilled halibut filet topped with mango and papaya tropical salsa served with rice and fresh mixed greens”. Also fabulous!

View from the Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

That view again. I can’t help myself.

Shops in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

The rest of the Laguna Village is filled with cute, little specialty & art shops. I bought a gorgeous gold-filled anklet from Shelby’s and my mom bought some coral and shells from Rudi’s (located on the eastern side of the Laguna Village, near the street.

Shelby's foot jewelry shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Meeting and chatting with Rudi and Linda was a highlight of our day! Rudi is from Vienna, Austria and Linda is from Cape Town, South Africa. Since I have previously visited both of their original hometowns we had a blast discussing our favorite parts of each destination.¬†They told me about the under-rated Tokai wine region in Cape Town, a place I’ll most definitely be visiting on my next visit to Cape Town (which is hopefully sooner, rather than later)!

Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Their adorable dog, Bear, greets customers with a wagging tail when he’s not lounging in his cushy bed.

Rudi and Bear at Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

My mom was so inspired by Bear’s haircut that she requested I groom up our Pomeranian/Papillon pup just like him. I tried. But I’m saving you from the visual. I’ll leave it at that. Admire Bear’s handsome looks, instead.

Bear, Rudi's dog, at Rudi's Seashell shop in the Laguna Village in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

After checking out the Laguna Village I recommend taking a stroll along the sand… because everyone likes long walks on the beach. Am I right or am I right?

Laguna Beach Lifeguard Tower, California via ZaagiTravel.comI also highly recommend heading to the main downtown streets, Forest Ave and Ocean Ave.

Here, you’ll find Scandia (248 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651),¬†an awesome bakery popular with locals.

Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

It’s filled to the brim with salads, pastries, and a comfy warm coffee aroma.

Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

From cookies, to tarts, to danishes… they have something for every sweet craving.

Baked goods at the Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Choosing between a danish and a coconut macaroon was next to impossible. I ended up “eenie-meenie-minie-mo”-ing it.

Baked goods at the Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

You’re lucky I paused to take a quick photo before gobbling this baby up! Ain’t she a beaut?

Coconut macaroon from the Scandia Bakery in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California via ZaagiTravel.com

¬†ANDDDDD… MORE SHOPPING! Because shopping. Duh.

I was ecstatic when I came across Tuvalu (295 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651), a home furnishings store with a shabby chic/oceanic theme. Totally my style!

Being that I semi-grew up in Orange County (die-hard beach baby since birth, just ask my mama), and sailed around the world on a ship, I have a deep LOVE for coastal interior designs.

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Tuvalu is the epitome of unique, rustic and beautiful. Their furniture, lighting, dining, bedding, art and accessories have even been featured in Coastal Living, Sunset Magazine, Ocean Home, Real Simple, and InStyle.

(Heads up: Their website is currently under construction, but¬†Pin this and come back to it later! Even if you can’t make it out to Laguna Beach, you can still browse/shop online when their website is back up!)

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Tuvalu also has a fun and eclectic book section towards the back of the store.

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

And it gets better. The owner/buyer, Laurie Alter, is totally awesome! She’s very hands-on in the store and one of the most helpful and cool business owners I’ve come across since I started blogging.

Tuvalu Home Furnishings and Interior Design Shop in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Be sure to check out¬†the Tuvalu blog¬†and¬†Pinterest account! I’m already obsessed.

Next up, one of my favorite clothing boutiques in Laguna Beach: Muse!

Muse Clothing and Accessory Boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Muse, formerly known as Ivory Moon, has been around for fifteen years. I’ve been coming here for at least five of those years.

Muse Clothing and Accessory Boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

The clothes are consistently interesting and desirable. This is because Muse sees itself as more than just a clothing store; they aim to be an art and fashion gallery by showcasing up-and-coming designers.

After speaking with the owner, I learned that he is inspired by the casual, artistic feel that the Laguna Beach community is known for. The boutique/gallery hopes to inspire it’s customers to be different and unique.

Muse Clothing and Accessory Boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

The clothing and accessory pieces are discovered and brought to the shelves and racks of the store from all over the world. For example, the canvas bag (on the left in the photo above) is from Madagascar!

Dressing rooms at the Muse clothing and accessory boutique in Laguna Beach, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Muse is a fun place to explore the future of the fashion world. I’ve often wondered if fashion-mogul Lauren Conrad gained inspiration from the boutique as she was growing up in Laguna Beach. (Shout out to LC! Her blog is to-die-for!)

 

If you’ve been to LB, what are your favorite things to see, eat, and do? Have I missed anything note-worthy?

How to Spend A Morning in Pismo Beach, California

Pismo Beach Pier, California via ZaagiTravel.comPismo Beach is a small beach town on the central coast of California. In the 1950’s it adopted the moniker “Clam Capital of the World”, a culture it still closely identifies with today. You may have also heard of this little gem from pop culture classic, Clueless, when Cher identifies herself as captain of the Pismo Beach Disaster Relief.

The real disaster is if you haven’t ever heard of Pismo Beach. However, if this is the case, it’s not too late.

What you should know now:

Pismo Beach Pier, California via ZaagiTravel.comThe downtown area is a popular stop for travelers making the long trip up or down the gorgeous coast (bias aside…) of the golden state. It is also the closest beach to San Luis Obispo, home to Cal Poly SLO, a well-regarded university.

Surfer viewed from the Pismo Beach Pier, California via ZaagiTravel.comSurfer viewed from the Pismo Beach Pier, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Lately I’ve been loving the monthly road trips with friends up to our friend Kevin’s oceanfront vacation home. Let’s be real, who doesn’t love indulging in delicious food and stunning Pacific Ocean views…?

Road Trip to Pismo Beach, California with friends via ZaagiTravel.comIf you’re planning on a visit to Pismo Beach, do yourself a favor and put your diet on hold. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

There are three things you must do when visiting Pismo Beach, California…

1. Eat a to-die-for cinnamon roll at Old West Cinnamon Rolls on Dolliver St. Extra points for a specialized cinnamon roll, like the one I devoured that was coated with slivered almonds. BOMB! Other topping options include: crumbs, pecans, walnuts, raisins, and raisins & walnuts.

Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach, CA

Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach, CA via ZaagiTravel.com

2. Take a relaxing stroll on the pier or beach (PSSST! Silver dollar central on the north side of the pier during low tide. I found 12 in under 12 minutes!)

Pismo Beach Pier, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Pelican on the Pismo Beach Pier, California via ZaagiTravel.com

3. Finish up with a hot sourdough bread bowl full of award-winning clam chowder from the famous Splash Cafe (an awesome tip I got from my boyfriend, Ryan: add the “seafood topping” for a $1.00… it is SO good!)

Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl from Splash Cafe, Pismo Beach, CA via ZaagiTravel.com

Clam Chowder from Splash Cafe, Pismo Beach, CA via ZaagiTravel.com

What do you love most about Pismo Beach?

If you could only choose one, which would you have — an Old West cinnamon roll or clam chowder from Splash Cafe?

Best Italian Food Outside of Italy: Aldolino’s in Azusa, California

Aldolino‘s was recommended to me by my mom’s hair stylist. As a lover of Italian cuisine I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Thank goodness I did. It was truly the best Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy! And now one of my favorite restaurants ever.

As we pulled up I tried not to pass judgment based on the exterior — an unassuming location, in a fairly old shopping center, with a Mexican grocery store as a neighbor. In fact, it has served up Italian food in this location for nearly 60 years, including back when Arrow Hwy was still a dirt road.

Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.comAs I entered I quickly observed how clean and charming the interior was.

Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Gabriel, our server (who also happens to be the owner), was a beaming ray of sunshine. He could easily pass as an Italian — handsome, charismatic, and with a genuine desire to serve up the best Italian food you’ve ever had. He and his brother Jesus (the chef) love to cook. They each have an impressive resume with collective experience in nearly a dozen high-end restaurants around the Los Angeles area — establishments like Il Fornaio, Palm Restaurant, Arroyo Chop House, Twin Palms, etc.

Owners at Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.com

The menu displays a photo of the original owner, Aldolino Formica, whose own charisma helped land him on TV shows like I Love Lucy (with Lucille Ball below) and the Ed Sullivan Show, among others.
Menu at Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.com

Inside the menu you can find a diverse variety of reasonably priced and delicious Italian dishes, including recipes that have been passed down from the days of Aldolino himself.Menu at Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.com

This particular visit I ordered the Venezia Insalata. My other favorite dish to order is the Pasta Della Casa. Unfortunately for you, the salad looked so irresistible that, well, it was gone before I could remember to take a picture.

Below is the dish my dad ordered, Rigatoni Al Forno. If you like Italian sausage you truly can’t beat the incredible version served up at Aldolino’s.

Fun fact: All of the sauces here are made fresh, from scratch and by taste.

Rigatoni Al Forno at Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.com

One of my other favorite dishes (I know, there are so many!) is the Ravioli di Vitello — a beef raviolo in a mushroom herb creme sauce drizzled with white truffle oil. This stuff is to die for. The bread at Aldo’s (which is utterly¬†amazing also, do you see a theme here?) goes perfectly with the mushroom sauce. I could literally order a bowl of the sauce and eat it with a bowl of the bread. Can’t believe I just admitted that, but it’s true!

Ravioli Di Vitello at Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.com

And if all of this weren’t enough to convince you that you NEED to try this place…¬†just scroll down a bit to see the apple dessert with homemade cinnamon ice cream.

Fun fact: All of the desserts are made on-site by Gabriel himself.

Apple Dessert with Cinnamon Ice Cream at Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.comEnough said.

Apple Dessert with Cinnamon Ice Cream at Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.com Is it just me or do those pictures make you want to lick the screen?

Aldolino's Italian Food Restaurant in Azusa, California via ZaagiTravel.comAldolino’s truly deserves all the praise in the world. I wish them many more years of success (I simply never want to stop coming here)!

Aldolino’s Italian Restaurant is located at 659 E Arrow Hwy, Azusa, California 91702.

Have you ever been to Aldolino’s? What’s your favorite dish?