Restaurant Darlings…Hip New Happenings
On September 16th we explored three of the classic restaurants and the history of their early beginnings. In this Part Two we will take a peek at three brand new restaurants that are making a splash here in Newport. All three feature authentic Italian fare, in rather unique settings.
Cucina Enoteca- Fashion Island
This Restaurant just opened and has another outpost at Irvine Spectrum. They own numerous other restaurants in San Diego, so they know what they are doing. This restaurant just makes me smile the minute I walk in the door. First off, I am greeted by a vast selection of wine, so who can go wrong with that as your welcome? (They sell their wines at retail prices for take-away or for in-restaurant dining, which is a rather unique offering in Newport.) The dining room is huge, with brightly painted wall, fabric covered chairs in colorful patterns, a long bar, and a lovely outside covered patio with succulent accents all around. The owner Tracy is an avid flea-market hunter of goodies, has brought back many a bobble and treasures for the décor. My eyes dart about, enjoying each surface and what can be found in the nooks and crannies of this eclectic and fun space.
Keep in mind, this is a great spot for shared items. The menu is all Italian, however there are some fun twists to what they offer. Yes, there are antipasti, salads (giardino), pizzas, pasta, and piatti (main courses) such as: Jidori chicken, burger, grilled pork flat iron. But let me walk you through a few of my favorites….they have mini-mason jars with burrata and roasted garlic, and the chicken liver pate with brown sugar and shallots is also excellent. These are served with crostini. They also prepare a lovely cheese and Italian meats plate, and you can choose the various cheeses and meats, which I like to do. For pizza, it is more of a flatbread style and is crispy and delicious. The smoked salmon with lemon crème fraiche, bufala mozzarella, red onion and basil is excellent. There are eight other choices as well. For pasta I enjoy the mushroom Bolognese with spinach and goat cheese. Cucina Enoteca uses sustainable practices and purchase organics whenever possible. All the craft cocktails are prepared with house-make juices. Worth a visit very soon!
Cucina Enoteca- Fashion Island
951 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11:30am – 10:00pm
Friday and Saturday 11:30am -11:00pm
Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana- Crystal Cove
Settebello Pizzeria is just one big surprise. The restaurant is enormous with two large wooden pergolas that anchor the space with an instant Italian flair. The center of the roof is completely open to the sky. So when it rains it will be raining inside the restaurant in the center. There are large olive trees reaching to the light, and floor to ceiling folding glass panels, create a dramatic and welcoming indoor/outdoor vibe. An expansive horseshoe bar and various modern “living room inspired” conversation pods all ensure a relaxed setting for mingling and meeting friends.
Wondering what Settebello means? There is an Italian card game called Scopa. The restaurant is named after the most valuable card in that 40 card deck. Settebello is the nickname for the coveted “seven of gold” card.
Mirroring a casual cucina, or pizzeria in Naples, the décor features rustic wood tables with black inlaid bracings, crisp white cotton napkins with blue accents, and white square plates—- offering the perfect setting for the colorful cuisine. Each afternoon between 5:00 and 6:00 Italian black and white movies from the 1920’s and 30’s era are projected on the back wall. It creates a fun ambiance, sets the mood for the early evening, and is quite a conversation piece.
The menu is simple—from insalate, to antipasti, crostini and salumi. The ‘must order” of course, is the pizza. The pizza is inspired by the authentic recipes of Napoli—soft and foldable. The oven is handmade by artisan oven makers in Napoli. The individual bricks inside are handmade from volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius and the oven can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees. They feed the fire with a mixture of red oak and citrus woods. A selection of 12 different pies are offered, and are just perfect for sharing. My favorite is the Settebello pizza. It just has a little bit of everything. There are crushed tomatoes, pancetta, sausage, mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. You have to be hungry for that one. The Margherita pizza is great for those guests who are not too adventuresome, and for sharing with kids. It has crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, parmigiano, basil and olive oil. Everything they can import, they do. Their flour is imported from Napoli, Italy. Other imports include: Prosciutto Cotto & Crudo from the small town of Parma, the Parmesan cheese is from Modena, and the tomatoes are from San Marzano. They order Pancetta from Salumi’s in Seattle, Washington, and fruits and vegetables arrive locally from West Central Produce.
They have a robust cocktail program offering 12 different beers on tap—including many local craft beers, and 6 in the bottle. They create all of their own fresh juices, house-made syrups and mixes. I am told this extra effort ensures delicious cocktails. This is a very cool restaurant with an open-air ambiance. Their pizza is delicious and worth a visit or just for cocktails as this is a great meeting spot!
Pirozzi Restaurant- Corona del Mar
Chef and restaurant owner Alessandro Pirozzi has done it once again. He has the magic touch with Italian food, and has just added a charming restaurant right here in Corona del Mar. We like the drive to Laguna Beach, but this is way more convenient. There is a lovely covered patio which is always busy. Inside, the brick wall adds a sense of warmth to the dining room. The décor is somewhat modern with gray tones and colorful light fixtures.
Pirozzi Corona Del Mar features a wood-burning oven that was handcrafted by artisans in Naples, Italy, and imported especially for Alessandro. There is a Prosciutto & Mozzarella Bar, an extensive wine and beer list, and baked Prime beef is served. Their handcrafted pasta and gelato are made fresh daily. His attention to all the details is quite impressive.
For a smallish restaurant footprint, the menu is immense. Seriously huge. Let’s just start with the appetizers—- there are 19 of them! By far, my favorite is the Butternut Squash Ravioli, made with organic squash, ricotta ravioli, and a brown butter sage sauce drizzled atop. A show-stopper. For the Prosciutto and Mozzarella selection there are 21 different items, 11 Pizzas, and 21 Pastas (my favorite is the homemade limoncello infused pasta, giant prawns, shallots, fresh lemon and pinot grigio sauce). There are 5 main courses, 4 fire baked items, 6 sides and 8 different desserts. It is a daunting, but incredible menu. Impressive indeed Alessa! This is a must taste menu!
Photo Featured on main slide provided by Cucina Enoteca.