With so many restaurants closing down due to economic factors, it's miraculous that Todo Un Poco Mexican and Italian Bistro is still around. One of the original businesses that went up in 1996 in the Laguna Main Street Plaza, this place has weathered the storm while watching its neighbors disappear (does anyone still remember Memories Are Made?).
The festive exterior welcomes you with brightly painted folk art and a red bench, topped off with a European-looking overhang. Parking is plentiful and there's even an ATM right outside, in case you need to fatten up your wallet, pre-meal.
Inside, lively paintings of famous mexicanos punctuate the warm dark-brown walls. It's not every night that Frida Kahlo smiles down at me while eating supper. The vibrant candy-apple lamps have low-watt bulbs, and their soft, red light gave the place a cozy feeling that night, but could also seem a tad spooky, making it the perfect restaurant at which to meet for a Halloween meal later in the year.
I invited my good friend Debbie to join me for dinner. Once inside the seating area, we heard "Chicas, come!" and were motioned by Adan, a handsome forty-ish waitstaff member who hustled us to our table. I was amused by his casual familiarity.
I started the night with a Mambo Mango—mango purée with "other mango touches" and rum. This in itself was an adventure, as no sooner had the drink arrived when, just as I was about to take a sip, Adan rushed out with a shot glass and announced, "Wait!," and proceeded to plop a shot of rum into my drink. For just $6.50, it was fresh and flavorful. The mango was subtle, as was the rum, and I imagined drinking this concoction seaside in Cancun or Sorrento.
We had the cursory chips and salsa prior to the meal, the latter of which had unexpected bite. If high blood-pressure is an issue for you, pass on this freebie, as it was quite salty.
My salad looked appetizing, but tasted surprisingly bland. Topped with cold pasta shells and croutons, the dark leafy greens were rather large and required cutting into bite-size pieces. The saving grace was the lone tomato round—how they found such a good tomato in winter beats me.
After perusing the extensive menu, I ordered the Cannelloni de Pollo: three chicken crêpes stuffed with ricotta cheese and herbs, topped with chunky marinara, accompanied by bread and salad for $10.95. Debbie selected the Southern Mexico Style Shrimp Fajitas, cooked in two salsas with grilled onions and bell peppers, served with beans, rice and flour tortillas for $14.50.
The marinara was tangy and blended well with the cheese and chicken. I couldn't truly taste the crêpes, as they were buried under the aforementioned ingredients, but had more than my fill of carbs with the two bread spears. Oddly donut-like in texture, they were slightly crispy on the outside and chewy inside. I'd hoped for a more garlicky tang, but they grew on me quickly and I made short work of them.
Debbie had this to say about her meal: "The usual garnishes of sour cream and guacamole weren't missed one bit on these untraditional fajitas. The shrimp and sauce, flavorful and slightly sweet, really shine in this dish. It was more like a stew, and hit the spot on a cold winter evening. The generous portions of black beans and rice rounded out the meal nicely."
Desserts were conspicuously left off the menu, so we asked if any were available. Our options were chocolate cake, flan or deep-fried bananas with ice cream, none of which we chose, as we had no room left. But we agreed that they sounded worth returning for.
Those of you with children will be pleased to discover an impressive kids' menu for young ones 12 and under, including all the usual favorites like macaroni and cheese, and more traditional foods, like poquito cinco, a chicken enchilada with beans and rice for little ones with a more daring palate.
Whether you come alone, with friends or as a family, Todo Un Poco truly does have a little something for everyone.
Todo Un Poco Mexican & Italian Bistro
9080 Laguna Main St., Suite 1A
Elk Grove, CA 95758
Hours: Lunch M-F 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.; Dinner M-F 4:30 - 9 p.m.; Sat-Sun 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Sun brunch 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.