Twenty years in the restaurant business is nothing to take lightly. Favaloro's Big Night Bistro has been an anchor in Pacific Grove's dining scene for the past two decades and with no lack of tragedy. In 2012 the Italian family run business experienced a detrimental fire that ripped through the entire building. Living just down the street from the restaurant, I was shocked to hear about the fire but couldn't be happier to hear that they were planning to bounce back; and bounce back they did! In August 2013 husband and wife Nino and Marie Favaloro reopened their doors with the same great dishes and down-home service that keeps locals and visitors coming back for more.

The cozy establishment is located on Lighthouse Avenue in one of Pacific Grove's charming Victorian storefronts. Favaloro's has a charm all its own that makes you feel like part of the family once you step inside. The dim lighting, traditional Mediterranean décor and displayed Italian wines create a romantic and enchanting vibe, perfect for a date night!

Recently a large group of hungry co-workers and I had the pleasure of dining at my local hot spot. After a warm greeting from owners Nino and Marie Favaloro, and glasses half full of Chianti, we were ready to begin our traditional Sicilian soirée.

Every good Italian meal should start with fantastic bread and Favaloro's takes this a step farther with its aromatic garlic cheese bread. The toasted Italian loaf oozed with mozzarella cheese and bites of garlicky goodness.

Being that we had ten in our group we obliviously opted to have not one, not two but four starters. Living in Monterey has made me quite the calamari snob and I can honestly say that the Calamari Fritti is among one of the best on the peninsula. The lightly breaded squid was exquisitely tender and obviously fresh out of the bay.

Steering away from the deep fried dish we cleared our arteries with two different salads, a beet salad and an arugula and pear salad. The arugula salad was my personal fav with bites of crunchy Asian pears, homemade candied walnuts and chunks of pungent gorgonzola cheese.

The heartiest appetizer of them all was the Melanzane Parmigiana, or grilled eggplant with cheese. Layers of meaty eggplant medallions were topped with spicy marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. Sprinkles of freshly picked basil leaves made me smile on the inside and added a much welcomed peppery kick.

What's an Italian meal without pasta? Favaloro's has quite the line-up on the menu including homemade cannelloni, fettuccine and linguine. Tonight we were treated to gnocchi gorgonzola and butternut squash raviolis. I've had the gnocchi as an appetizer before and was certainly not disappointed to see it as an entrée. The doughy potato pillows had the perfect consistency that allowed each bite to immediately melt in your mouth. The remaining gorgonzola cream sauce was quickly sopped up by a piece of garlic bread I had hoarder earlier.

Just when I thought I had reached my eating capacity, Nino surprised us with steamed clams and cioppino. I savored every bit of the clams as the buttery Bordelaise sauce seems to drip down my face.

After each course our amazing waiter Nick was quick to clear our dishes and silverware. I must say that the family atmosphere and service is the icing on the cake and truly rounds out the "big night out" experience.

Last, but certainly not least, cannolis! Baby cannolis came powdered in sugar with a cherry on top! The creamy ricotta filling had a hint of coffee with a crust that had just the right amount of crunch. A perfect pastry to top off a traditional Sicilian dinner!

Need a quick bite or just a quick fix for a sweet tooth? Just next door is the Favaloro family's "fast food" eatery named after Nino and Marie's daughter. Café Ariana has all sorts of panini, pizzas and gelatos open daily (except Sunday) at 11am for lunch and dinner (or just dessert).