One week before our own dineLA launches on July 15, Claremont kicks off its first-ever Restaurant Week from today through July 16th. Home to the seven Claremont Colleges, a botanic garden covering 86 acres, a bustling Sunday farmers market and Ben Harper's Folk Music Center, Claremont is looking to expand its reputation beyond being labeled the city of trees and PhDs. For the next eight days, 20 restaurants are offering prix fixe menus for $20, $30 and $40. From Portuguese favorites like bacalhau de natas at Euro Café to traditional Afghan dishes like kabuli pilaf at Walter's, it's a good time to taste what's cooking 30 miles east of downtown L.A.
Nearly thirty years ago, two 22-year-old sweethearts decided to start a restaurant. Today, Aruffo's is still open for business seven days a week on Yale Avenue in Claremont Village, and owner Valerie Aruffo still greets and seats her customers. The three-course lunch and four-course dinner ranges in price depending on the main course, which could be pasta swirled with homemade basil pesto or chicken breast sautéed in fine Marsala drinking wine (rather than the more commonly used cooking Marsala wine). The featured dinner dessert is one of Aruffo's most requested: a decadent chocolate crème brûlée with fresh berries. 126 N. Yale Ave., Claremont; 909-624-9624.
The Lounge at Hotel Casa 425 is offering three courses -- its chopped blue salad, a margherita pizza and mango and raspberry sorbet -- for $20. The salad alone, bustling with heirloom tomato, green apple, blue cheese and walnut flavors, makes a meal. The crispy iceberg lettuce is refreshing after a morning spent walking around the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden or shopping on First Street in the Claremont heat. The Lounge is best known as the local go-to spot to unwind with a drink in hand outside in the hotel's courtyard. 425 West First St., Claremont; 909-625-2272.
If Tutti Mangia owner Eddie Inglese isn't greeting diners at the door, he's chatting with customers at their table. Tutti Mangia is an upscale eatery, and its three-course lunch for $20 and dinner for $40 boasts choices like scallopini di pollo and petite filet mignon. For dinner, the roasted beef marrow bones melt in your mouth and will make you want 10 more. End your meal with the perfectly light panna cotta trio, which refers to its three herb-infused sauces: orange-terragon, lemon-basil and raspberry-mint. If you're looking for something more casual, Inglese also runs Eddie's Pizzeria & Eatery, which is offering three courses, including fried zucchini and St. Louis style ribs, for $20. 102 Harvard Ave., Claremont; 909-625-4669.
Couple Nangy and Fhaima Ghafarshad opened the Afghan eatery Walter's some 40 years ago, despite being among the only Afghans in Claremont. Now, it's far and away a local favorite. The family-run restaurant serves traditional dishes like lawand morgh (chicken with onions and yogurt sauce) on Friday and Saturday nights, and several others stay on the menu all week. You'll find customer favorite kabuli pilaf, chunks of tasty lamb covered with rice pilaf mixed with carrots and raisins, alongside two pieces of grilled eggplant layered with tomato slices and yogurt sauce. The restaurant extends far back from the street, and at the very end is a stage, where musicians play flamenco music live on Friday nights. 310 N. Yale Ave., Claremont; 909-624-2779.
Packing House Wines is a wine shop with a full kitchen. Sal Medina took over the abandoned space in April 2007, and expanded the kitchen about two years ago. There's a bar, a string of high-top tables and a seated lounge area, which fits Medina's theme of casual fine dining. But don't let the laid back atmosphere deceive; Packing House whips up the best food in Claremont, and Medina's witty one-liners and passion for food and wine adds to its charm. The three-course dinner menu is $30, with wine pairings available for an additional cost. Although the organic beef slider topped with crispy shallots, bacon and Irish cheddar on a toasted potato bun isn't on the prix fixe menu, it's worth finding a little extra room for. 540 W. First St., Claremont; 909-445-9463.
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