Best of Pasadena: Michael Cimarusti

Chef-owner Michael Cimarusti has lived in South Pasadena for over a decade with his wife, Crisi Echiverri, a former pastry chef and currently operations manager for their restaurant group.

Chef-owner Michael Cimarusti—of two-Michelin-starred, James Beard Award–winning restaurant Providence in Hollywood and the more casual seafood staple Connie & Ted’s in West Hollywood—has lived in South Pasadena for over a decade with his wife, Crisi Echiverri, a former pastry chef and currently operations manager for their restaurant group. Cimarusti was ahead of the curve with his on-site rooftop garden at Providence, where he grows a bounty of veggies, herbs, and edible flowers, and practices sustainability measures from zero-waste chocolate to cocktail programs. He made Providence into one of the most enduring sustainable seafood destinations in the country. —Carole Dixon

My favorite neighborhood go-to spot is Gus’s BBQ. It’s simple and they have a great cobb salad and good sandwiches, and I get the brisket when I order meat.

The Neapolitan-style pizza at Settebello in Old Pasadena is one of my favorite local dishes. Or I just order a white pie and when it comes out of the oven, they put prosciutto on top and a heaping pile of arugula. I also like Union in Pasadena and I’ll go to Triple Beam [by Nancy Silverton] in Highland Park anytime for pizza and Hippo next door for dinner.

For takeout we head to Golden Deli in Alhambra or Chang’s Garden in Arcadia.

For the best breakfast, we’ve been going to El Huarache Azteca in Highland Park for 15 years. It’s close to home, consistent, and delicious. I get the Super Huarache served with two sauces, green and red, that are fairly spicy. If I go in the morning, I get a fried egg on top and it’s the perfect breakfast.

The new restaurant I’m looking forward to going to is Piccolo. They are from the Westside but just opened in South Pasadena. Also, Agnes—my wife loves it and has been there several times. Unfortunately, they are closed on Sunday and Monday [chef’s days off] so I may never get to eat there!

For a classic establishment, I’d go to the Arroyo Chop House or one of the sister restaurants, the Parkway Grill, and order a grilled steak or a chop. We don’t have many cocktail bars in Pasadena, but in Highland Park, Café Birdie and Otoño are great.

The best restaurant interiors are at The Langham Hotel and lounge, and I also like The Royce for a good steak.

For the freshest produce, I go to the South Pasadena Farmers Market on Thursdays or Bristol Farms in my neighborhood. They have great produce and meat, plus it’s well maintained and friendly. But the best produce is at Cookbook in Highland Park, and I go every week for my favorite bread—the seeded baguette from Gjusta in Venice.

For meat and fish, Howie’s in San Marino is awesome. They have everything from lamb to A5 Wagyu beef. It’s like going to Harris Ranch at The Original Farmers Market—old school, great butchers, and very high quality.

For brunch on Sunday, I go to Nicole’s in South Pasadena. They have excellent cheeses—one of the best selections on the Eastside—French and Italian charcuterie, and wine. I pick up a bunch of stuff and bring it back to the house. They have a wholesale wing called Gourmet Imports and we buy a lot from them like chocolates, specialty salts, oils, and vinegars.

For wine, Mission Wine and Spirits has an excellent selection. The owner, Chris Meeske, is a master sommelier who used to work at Patina. You’re not going to find a better selection or more knowledgeable staff.

The top romantic spot in town is my backyard. I have an outdoor kitchen and a pizza oven. We spend a lot of time out there, especially during the summer. For a fun day or night off, I really enjoy time at home cooking a nice meal. I go to the farmers market, food shopping, open a bottle of wine, and invite friends over.