“I’m embarrassed to admit…I like McDonald’s.”
“I have to confess…I don’t really like foie gras.”
“I secretly think…KFC is better than homemade fried chicken.”
Why? Why do we say that we’re embarrassed to admit to liking something? Is there something wrong with liking what you like? If you think it’s good and you like it, that’s fine. If you think it’s bad and you don’t like it, that’s also fine. The trouble comes, of course, when you think it’s bad and yet you still like it. That makes you a hypocrite.
If you think it’s bad and yet you still like it, doesn’t that actually mean you do think it’s good, but everyone else thinks it’s bad so you should think it’s bad, and therefore, you shouldn’t like it? That means you’re easily influenced by others’ opinions. You’re brainwashed. Confused.
You shouldn't feel like you have to admit to liking something that everyone else doesn’t. It’s your opinion. Like it because you like it, dammit. Unless it’s illegal, immoral, or undeniably ugly, you’re allowed to like it, whatever "it" is.
Except the Cheesecake Factory. And Uggs. Both, I’m
sorry proud to say, are undeniably ugly.
Man, I should follow my own advice.
I am embarrassed to admit that I have gone to i Cugini. Even worse, I have gone to i Cugini multiple times. Worst of all, I have gone to i Cugini multiple times because…I kind of, um, like it.
*she crumbles into a shameful, red-faced heap onto the floor with a bucket of the Colonel’s Original Recipe*
Really, I shouldn’t like i Cugini. It’s near the hateful Promenade. It’s overrun with the T-word (tourists). Most of the food, or rather, the food that requires actual cooking, is mediocrity at the price of oceanfront.
Now comes the self-acquitting “but” statement that always follows opinions coupled with contradicting confession.
I shouldn’t like i Cugini, but I love the utterly sacrilegous way their kitchen turns out Caesar Salad.
Good grief. There’s another one. And another one. And, oh-em-gee, yet another confession that makes me a hungry hungry hypocrite.
Even with the abundance in southern California of fresh produce and accessibility to unique ingredients that could be tossed into the most beautifully tri-colore-ful arugula, radicchio, endive, goat cheese, pistachios and pomegrantes in a yuzu persimmon balsamagrette.
Even though pretentious fools believe Caesar naturally belongs on a Roman Emperor’s menu.
Even with my stubborn to tradition and they way something is “supposed” to be and taste.
Even still…I love Caesar Salad. I always order it in Italian restaurants. I fall all over myself when whole anchovy fillets sheets of parmesan blaspheme uncut hearts of Romaine that have been tossed with a dressing made with cooked eggs and an unholy amount of garlic. No croutons.
Señor Caesar Cardini would choke on his Worcestershire sauce.
Caesar Salad, you see, is quite possibly the most unimaginative thing you can serve as a starter in a restaurant other than a Denny’s dinner salad of Iceberg, cucumber coins and halved (ass) cherry tomatoes with Ranch dressing. It is also the most Mexican malapropos salad you can serve in an otherwise Italian context. Yet, the Caesar Salad has to appear on the menu at i Cugini because there are bloggers like me who love it. I order it every time I shamefully hide away in a shady corner on their pseudo-outdoor seating. The Ocean Ave side patio is completely protected from the elements with clear plastic that lets you snatch distorted glimpses of the ocean if you happen to catch a break in the passing urban mobile rainbow of Metro Red, Yellow, Big Blue, and Culver City Green. That’s only at lunch. If it’s dinner time, it’s a disco of headlights out there.
There isn’t anything else on I Cugini’s menu that sends me into delicious orbit other than that Caesar, and the occasional plate of white anchovies when they’re available. As I snarked previously, foods that rely only on the freshness of the produce and a partially skilled culinary academy extern to plate, are not disappointing – I could make
a meal of the salads, though the Golden Beet Carpaccio was too thick and hard. Anything that is cooked is where I Cugini makes me hate myself for admitting out loud that I asked my co-workers to take me there for my birthday luncheon. Then again, we work on The Promenade and Chinese Gourmet Express can’t seat a party of 12.
Minestrone soup is unremarkable, except that it’s rather thin and requires a heavy hand with table salt. What I do like, however, is the accompanying trailer trashy parmesan crisp. My susicion is that the cheesy little accessory should be broken like saltines into the soup, thereby “seasoning” the otherwise bland broth, but I couldn’t bear to surrender the crispness and concentrated saltiness to such diffusion. Next time, I should also ask to replace the croutons on my Caesar with a few of them.
The five or six pastas on the menu are ordinary. Gnocchi were gummy and drowning in sauce. Mozzarella and Prosciutto panini (available during lunch) was passable. Sauteed Swiss Chard with lemon and whole roasted garlic cloves, some of which were bitterly burnt, reminded me a little of the sauteed spinach side at Cheesecake Factory (crap, did I just admit that I’ve eaten at Cheesecake Factory?!). Nothing I’ve tried at I Cugini is inedible. It’s only painful when we think of value. I can have better, for less expensive, elsewhere.
But I don’t mind admitting that $9.95 for their Caesar is worth it.
1501 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401