This might be the coolest little hole-in-the-wall I've had the pleasure of discovering this side of LA. It's located in Claremont, California and it is, quite literally, tucked away in a quiet part of the Indian Hill Village, right across the street from the Packing House. Their parking lot is pretty spacious, so you won't be hunting for parking spots or having to pay exorbitant amounts for it as you would in LA.
They're only open for dinner, and the rustic dimly-lit interior makes taking those Instagram-worthy pictures a bit difficult, unless you have a top-of-the-line camera. As you might imagine, reservations are strongly recommended, as is a packed wallet for that final bill!
To start, you have a gorgeous selection of cocktails available, including signature drinks that vary from the smokey to the sweet, to classics like the Negroni and Monte Carlo, and even seasonal drinks that utilize ingredients prevalent during that particular time of the year. I visited during the Fall/ Winter months and my server recommended a strong cocktail with pleasantly spicy notes and a hefty amount of vodka called the “Early Harvest.” It definitely hits you after the first sip, and you won't need more than one or two to do you in for the night.
They do have a notable wine menu, as well, and your server can give you recommendations per your tastes and what you're ordering for dinner.
What makes these guys extra special is that they own a family farm just a city or two away in Ontario, where they get most of their ingredients. The food is obviously Italian, but unlike your typical Olive Garden that places importance on quantity over quality, Uno Tre Otto specializes on giving you flavor maximization by using the highest quality ingredients and old-world techniques.
The menu isn't enormous, but gives you a well-rounded selection of appetizers, starters, entrees, and desserts. My meal went a little bit like this:
Bocconcini ($9) - Fried mozzarella, herbed breadcrumbs, and house red sauce. These aren't your typical mozzarella sticks. They come in little fried chunks of crunchy, chewy, delectable goodness.
Crostini ($4)- Four pieces of toasted bread with pickled beets, (straight from the farm), Créme Fraîche, gremolata, and dill pollen. A bit too crusty for my tastes, but for the price, I'm not complaining. Just get ready to lose a few bits of the roof of your mouth.
Rigatoni ($21)- Hen of the Wood, cremini ragu, arugula, and parmigiano-reggiano. This one is a very mushroom-centered dish, but if you're a fan of creamy sauces, this dish is for you! The balance is really all there, even if you're not as big a fan of cheese.
And, of course, DESSERT! Butterscotch Budino ($7)- A simple pudding made with salted caramel sauce and whipped cream. You will definitely need to save room for this one; none of that artificial sweetness, here. Just a smooth, sweet, well-balanced finisher to an awesome meal. Lucky for you, they do take-away boxes.
The service here is also what makes your visit really stand out. They go above and beyond to make sure their customers are comfortable. And the space, while quite small, is the perfect location for a romantic meal or an intimate get-together with a few friends.
Just don't forget that reservation!