Following a Vision

Marina Pasadena gathers the community to honor Italian cuisine

By Kateri Wozny

Owners Nader Kaiser and Gustavo Landgrebe had a vision when opening their Italian restaurant, Marina Pasadena, in September: to create a neighborhood gathering place where customers can enjoy good wine and flavorful food.

“It’s not just the simplicity of ingredients but the quality of the ingredients,” Kaiser says. “We are honoring the beauty of Italian food.”

Kaiser, who was once the beverage director at Mi Piace, is also the owner of Republik Coffee Lounge, while Landgrebe once owned 1810 Argentine Restaurant and Tasca Wine Bar in Los Angeles.

“Him and I were foodies for years,” Kaiser says. “We’re good at it and love it. We are picky about what we do.”

Kaiser also holds a diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and is certified as a sommelier by the North American Sommelier Association and the Italian Sommelier Association. At Marina, there are 120 wine labels from California, France, Italy and Spain to pair with a meal. There is also a Wednesday special with 30% off any bottle of wine.

“I have traveled to 20 regions throughout Italy and worked in the vineyards,” Kaiser says. “You fall in love with the different regions and their cuisine. That’s why wine plays a role.”

The interior design of the restaurant aimed for a comfortable yet stylish vibe, with a high ceiling, classic chandeliers, murals representing Pasadena, an open kitchen and a wine room.

“We are accommodating and love to make friends with our guests,” Kaiser says.

Menu items have a rustic Italian foundation prepared by chef Dylan Stage. For starters ($17 to $22), customers can order items such as the octopus marinated with market peppers, shallots, sherry vinaigrette, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil; salt cod brandade with semi-dried heirloom cherry tomatoes and black olive grilled country bread; fried calamari and artichoke with parsley aioli and lemon; and the most popular dish, the market salad, currently with delicata squash, persimmon, ginger, orange segments, whipped goat cheese and orange vinaigrette.

“Dylan uses what’s in season from the farmer’s market,” Kaiser says. “It’s like an explosion of flavors.”

Pizzas ($21 to $25) are also a favorite, including the mortadella and pistachios with bechamel sauce, mozzarella and wild arugula; prosciutto San Danielle with heirloom cherry tomato, mozzarella, wild arugula, shaved Parmesan and crushed red pepper; margherita with tomato sauce, mozzarella, caciocavallo, burrata, basil and extra virgin olive oil; and the house Italian sausage with tomato sauce, mozzarella, caramelized onions, agrodolce and shishito peppers.

“We make the sausage in-house by grinding and cooking it with flavors that complement the sausage,” Kaiser says. “We also use a soft white Sonoma wheat flour.”

Pasta lovers ($19 to $38) can order the seafood linguini with little neck clams, Mexican blue shrimp, black cod and calamari cooked in saffron seafood broth; ricotta and squash tortelloni with lemon beurre blanc, oyster mushrooms, spigarello and pecorino; tagliatelle rabbit bolognese with tomato sauce, basil and Parmesan; and the bestselling bucatini carbonara with house pancetta, 140 F sous vide egg and Parmesan.

“In the Verona region (of Italy), they eat a lot of rabbit, fowl and duck,” Kaiser says. “(For the carbonara), we make the pancetta in-house, and it cures for 40 days.”

Main courses ($31 to $58) include the cider-glazed black cod with parsnip quinoa, roasted turnips, fermented apples and turnip greens; sautéed veal liver with parsnip purée, caramelized onions, house pancetta, capers and sage; the 12 oz. Wanderer Wagyu New York steak with watercress purée, grilled eggplant, pickled pepper and vermouth sauce; and the 16 oz. Duroc pork chop with cranberry and romano beans, grilled shishito peppers, radicchio and kombucha sauce.

“The quality of the pork chop is out of this world. It’s so tender and flavorful,” Kaiser says.

Kaiser says he appreciates the support of the community and plans on being in the area for years to come.

“Our passion and love for the business in uncompromised,” Kaiser says. “We celebrate good occasions, and we plan on being here for the next 30 years.”

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