24301 Muirlands Blvd.
Lake Forest, CA 92630
I know some of you that have sent in restaurant tips are a little apprehensive that we actually listen to your suggestions. It's true, we have been getting a little slower lately with getting out to readers suggested restaurants. It always seems that something is going on with us though. Wedding plans took over most of the first half of this year, then it was off to Jamaica for a relaxing honeymoon, and finally it was Ducks Stanley Cup playoff time, and we had to rearrange our schedule around watching and going to the games. Thanks to the unshakable Chicago Blackhawks, the Ducks title run has come to an end, but that means we have extra time in our schedule to fit in some restaurants on our readers tip list, like Biagio's.
Biagio's lands on our list because of Alex, who works or worked at the Coldstone by where we used to live. Yes, it has been on our list for at least a year and a half, but no time like the present to hit up his favorite Italian restaurant. He claimed that he's been going here since he grew up, which by looking at him meant he's been going to Biagio's since the early 2000's.
Biagio's has been around a lot longer than our friend Alex though. In fact, they have been in business at the shopping center at the corner of Muirlands and Ridge Route since 1976. That's close to 40 years, which makes this an institution in these parts. They even survived having the very good, Sabatino's a few doors down from them, and have out lasted them, as Sabatino's shuttered in early March after less than two years in this shopping center.
Besides the rave review that Alex gave us, I have heard other good things about Biagio's from other sources. When Claudia Koerner used to write Food Frenzy for the OC Register, she raved about the meatball sandwich here. Back in 2008, OC Weekly claimed that they had the best dinner salad in all of OC. Pretty big praise for an Italian restaurant that is located in an out of the way shopping center. I have to admit I was pretty excited to give this place a try.
We arrived at Biagio's at about 5pm on a recent Saturday. We were lucky, and sat ourselves in a booth along the wall. If you come, and all the tables are filled, you write your name on the blackboard by the front door, and wait for a table to become open.There's not really any room for a hostess stand, so it kind of was a little chaotic a few times when people did not write their names down. This is a not a fancy spot. A little on the loud side, this family restaurant is very old school, with their very broken in booths, and a cluttered, but clean appearance. The menu here is what you'd expect from a neighborhood Italian restaurant; pasta dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, and entrees. Katie and I made our selections, and this is what made its way to our table.
Biagio's started us off with a couple pieces of their crusty bread, with butter. This came out very warm, which helped melt the butter a bit. A pretty decent piece of bread, even if it was toasted a little too much for my taste.
Entrees at Biagio's come with either soup or salad, and I don't even know what the soup tasted like, but do yourself a favor and get their House Salad instead of the soup. You won't be sorry. The salad is pretty basic, iceberg and romaine lettuce, a few slices of tomato and cucumbers, and a couple of olives tossed in. What brings this salad up to legendary status is the house dressing they liberally add to the greens. A thick, not quite ranch, more like a garlic dressing covers the produce, and you can't quite grasp how this dressing makes this simple salad so good. It's easy to see the praise this dressing gets, and you can definitely see why people buy some to go home with them.
You're probably looking at the pictures above, trying to guess what Katie ordered. She went with the Large Biagio's Antipasto Salad ($14). This thing was huge, and sat in our refrigerator for a few days as we whittled it down to only one to go container, instead of the two that we left the restaurant with. Lots of meat, spiced carrots and other veggies are placed over a mound of lettuce. The meats here were actually a lot better than I thought they would be, and the hot capicola was very addictive, and I knew that I had a lot of food coming my way. This would have been a good enough sized salad to feed at least 6 adults.
It might be my subconscious, but I know I'm usually in for a treat when Italian food is served to me in a metallic baking dish. Not only does this insure that its going to be coming in scalding hot, but it also seems to make the food taste better, for whatever reason. This was the case with this Lasagna ($14) from Biagio's. This version of the classic Italian dish had plenty of cheese, and a very good red sauce. I thought I got jipped with a lack of meat, but it was all huddled in the middle, and there was plenty of it. Even though this was in a smaller baking dish, this was still a pretty good sized piece of lasagna, which I enjoyed the next day for lunch.
Yes, we kind of went a little overboard here with the food we ordered, but we wanted to try a couple of things, and we don't mind eating leftovers. This Medium One Topping Pizza ($12) was pretty solid. The pepperoni was layered underneath the cheese, which is the way I like it, as it traps the greasiness of the meat under the blanket of cheese. For those that like a thicker crust, this pizza is for you. The cheese and toppings separated easily from the pizza crust, so this was a little hard to eat. This pizza brought to mind the pizzas of my youth. The pizzas of independent pizza parlors, that are not trying to be too fancy, or fashion themselves after pizzas from Italy. I'd call this stick to your ribs pizza, and I liked it.
The one thing we were not too crazy about was this Chocolate Chip Cannoli ($3.50). Maybe we just caught them on a bad day, but the pastry shell was overcooked, and the inside of this had no sweetness to it, and that's with the chocolate chips included. The drizzle of chocolate sauce and powdered sugar was not much help either. Not one of our favorite cannolis we have had.
Even with the lackluster cannoli, we still really enjoyed our time and meal at Biagio's. If you're looking for fancy Italian you might want to keep on going. If you're looking for a traditional Italian restaurant from yesteryear with big portions, a really good salad dressing, and some solid pizza, this might be the place for you. We loved the family atmosphere here. From the time we were sat, we were treated like we were regulars, even though this was our first time here. It won't be our last trip here though. Prices might be a tad too high, but you can definitely get away with splitting some of the items off of the menu. Glad we finally had a lull in our schedule, so we could knock off one of our readers recommendations. Maybe yours will be next.
Out of five corks, (because the city of Mount San Biagio in Italy is one of the few places outside of Sardinia that produces wood for corks), five being best to zero being worst, Biagio's gets a very solid 3 corks.
For more information about Biagio's Restaurant, go to their website here: http://www.biagiositalianrestaurant.com/Home_Page.html