Z: Formerly a traditional Italian restaurant, That's Amore! closed its doors for one week and made a conscientious decision to reopen as a more compassionate restaurant serving only vegan and vegetarian foods.
R: The owners, sisters Marina Rasheed and Gayane Karapetian, and their families, repainted the restaurant, changed the decor, purchased all new kitchen utensils, and reopened on October 13, 2008 as That's Amore! with a new menu that's mainly vegan. They have rennet-less dairy mozzarella available on request. Marina's two sons, Ali and Omar, take an active part in the restaurant's daily operation.
Z: Ali, who sports a giant smile and a welcoming manner, greeted us and made us feel instantly at home. We chose a corner table and were joined by our friends John and Cynthia. Because That's Amore! is mainly a vegan Italian restaurant, actually the only one in all of Los Angeles county, we felt relief and knew we wouldn't have to ask about specific ingredients. Menu decisions would be easy, we thought. Actually, everything sounded so tempting, the challenge became what NOT to order.
R: Pizza was a must, and from the seven choices of their New York style pizza, we settled on the small, 12-inch size of the Deluxe. What a treat! Our little treasure arrived brimming with an array of colorful flavor jewels in the form of green bell peppers, purple onions, mushroom slices, pepperoni, black olives, and veggie sausage bathed in perfectly melted Follow Your Heart mozzarella cheese on a delightfully crispy crust.
Z: Our first bites were accompanied by Dean Martin's lilting voice singing "Volare," and again, we were overwhelmed by a feeling so Italian we could barely control urge to dance the tarantella. We loved every savory mouthful of pizza and could have ordered another if not for our desire to try other dishes. Ali proudly mentioned we could even enhance the flavor with a few sprinkles of their homemade Parmesan.
R: It worked! The pizza was even better with a splash of Parmesan. It was even delicious on the Chicken Parmigiana, a large meatless patty covered with a tasty tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. Cuddled up to the patty on the oval platter was a bright medley of grilled broccoli florets, carrot chunks, bite-size zucchini pieces, and quartered artichoke hearts, making the entrée a well-balanced delicious choice. The veggies had the taste of freshness and were cooked until crisp-tender. We detected a delicate hint of smoky flavor and learned the veggies are cooked on the grill with Italian herbs. And can anyone feast on an Italian meal without the traditionally grilled garlic bread? That would be unthinkable! Not one, but two plump, well-seasoned pieces of garlic bread accompanied this platter.
Z: Next to arrive was the pasta dish. All five of the pasta choices sounded delicious, but Cynthia's leaning toward That's Amore! proved to be very satisfying. The restaurant prepares a tasty vegan bechamel sauce they combined with their marinara for this pasta. Dotted with mushrooms and thick slices of Tofurky sausage, the well-sauced al dente pasta was pure delight. The pasta, too, was accompanied with garlic bread.
R: Of the two lasagna choices, we all opted for the Traditional Lasagna. Between the pasta layers the lasagna is filled with tofu ricotta, marinara sauce, Bolognese sauce, and deliciously hot melted mozzarella cheese. This dish, too, enjoyed the full complement of robust grilled fresh vegetables and garlic bread.
Z: Though we had eaten like royalty, we saved a little room for dessert. Desserts are not yet listed on the menu, but Ali mentioned they have homemade cannoli prepared to order. The few minutes wait for our desserts was a welcome respite and gave us a chance to enjoy the pleasant ambience. The table coverings, in pastel blue that matched the curtains, were so subtle that at first we didn't notice them. They were made of faux suede vinyl that added a pleasant touch of warmth to the room.
R: The spacious restaurant has two rooms divided by a half wall and a large opening between the two rooms that's trimmed in blue. Plants adorn the half wall, and large windows offer abundant light enhanced by an attractive light blue curtain treatment. The walls are painted an intense goldenrod yellow on the upper portion. The bottom half comes alive with a two-tone blue reminiscent of the blue accents we saw on the Greek Island of Mykonos. The large ceramic floor tiles in Southwest burnt umber add to the bright glow of the room along with the attractive Tiffany droplights and wall sconces.
Z: Vegan cannoli are a rare treat, and homemade vegan cannoli say That's Amore! has gone the extra mile to make their patrons feel special. The golden brown 5-inch shells were tipped with melted chocolate at either end and dusted with powdered sugar. Tucked inside each was the rich creamy filling practically oozing out the ends. The shells were perfectly crisp, the filling was deliciously sweet and ultra creamy--a winning combination that made the perfect finish.
R: Omar and Ali offered top-notch service with pleasant smiles and a full knowledge of the ingredients in each menu item. Clearly, they feel pride and enjoy helping their business grow. Creating an all vegan Italian restaurant is a new adventure for the family, including Chef Luis Carizcorreta who is from Spain. Yet, they are genuinely off to a great start, and we foresee the vegan community quickly embracing this charming restaurant.
13349 Artesia Blvd., Cerritos, CA 90703
Reviewed January 2009