For the entire month of January, I endured Whole30, which meant no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar, no alcohol, nothing of all the things I love to eat. So when February rolled around, I was only too happy to say “Ahola30” and dive back into the world of eating whatever the heck I want. There was one thing I was craving especially, and it was Italian food. Breadsticks! Pasta! Risotto! Cream sauce! Need I go on?

Market City Caffe in Burbank was exactly what I needed to fill the Italian-food-shaped hole in my stomach and I was excited to sample a number of their dishes paired with beers by 156 Verdugo West Brewing Co.

Market City Caffe
164 Palm Ave, Burbank, CA 91502

Market City Caffe is a casual, but classy, restaurant located on a bustling stretch of eateries in the heart of Burbank. The vibe is warm and lively with a welcoming, unpretentious air, and an open kitchen affords a view of meals being prepared under the care of executive chef Robert Chaidez.

While my fiancé and I waited for our appetizer, we sampled some fresh baked bread with oil and balsamic vinegar. After not eating bread for a month, this was simply heavenly. I had to remind myself that there was more food coming so I wouldn’t fill up on bread completely. (I mean, look at how tall these things were!)

Before long our appetizer, Pancetta Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, arrived along with a sample of Wax Wing blonde lager (156 Verdugo West Brewing Co). 

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The shrimp is touted as a restaurant favorite since 1988 and I can see why. The plump shrimp arrived grilled to perfection, snuggly wrapped in pancetta and bacon, marinated in balsamic vinegar and fresh organic basil and served over a bed of broccolini, baby heirloom tomatoes, and black olives.

The smoky flavors of the shrimp played nicely with the sweetness of the tomatoes and olives. The beer was hoppier than the average blonde, but it complimented the dish well, adding a bit of  a tangy punch to the meal the way a squeeze of lemon might, and balancing the sweetness of the bacon and pancetta.

Next up was a sample of Jack Roller pale ale (156 Verdugo West Brewing Co) paired with mussels and shrimp saffron risotto. This dish was bursting with flavor thanks to the mix of baby heirloom tomatoes, fava beans, sautéed Garlic, white wine sauce, grana cheese, and fresh oregano. The beer was also quite hoppy with a citrusy scent, and very complex flavor that alternated between tangy and floral. My fiancé called it the “Earl Gray of beer”, which somehow made sense. I’m no beer expert, but I enjoyed it, and it made a nice pairing with the creamy risotto and meaty mussels.

Next up was a Quarterly IPA paired with brick chicken from Shelton Farms, served with a grilled arugula salad sprinkled with candied pecans and pear slices. If you like rosemary, you’ll love this dish! The bone-in chicken was very tender and rich with flavor, and the salad was a nice accompaniment that wasn’t too heavy (especially since we getting quite full by this point!). True to its type, the IPA was very hoppy (made with Warrior and Columbus hops, our server informed us), and it also added a nice bite to contrast with the mellower flavors of the chicken.

Lastly, in lieu of a traditional dessert, we tried the Sweet Potato Ravioli with shallot cream sauce. Each day of the week, Market City Caffe offers a different hand-rolled ravioli of the day. This was Saturday’s offering, and it was fantastic! It was so sweet and creamy, that I didn’t even miss having a “normal” dessert. Especially since it was paired with What Plane? Oatmeal Stout (156 Verdugo West Brewing Co), which was as rich and satisfying as drinking coffee with cake.

Needless to say, by the end of the dinner,  I was stuffed, and quite content. Whole30 felt like a distant, vaguely unpleasant dream. I’m grateful to Market City Caffe for waking me up and reminding me that food is more than just fuel to keep us going – it’s a flavorful and joyful experience in and of itself. Cheers!

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