Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hoping for a Golden Meal at Conca D'Oro

Conca D'Oro Italian Restaurant
776 North Tustin Ave.
Orange, CA 92867

It seems that when we go out to dinner with my parents, we kind of go through streaks. Earlier this year we had gone to about five straight barbecue restaurants with them, and now we have gone to about as many Italian restaurants on our, "double dates". As is the usual, we try to pick a place in the middle of both of us. That usually lands us in central OC, and that's what landed us at Conca D'Oro in the city of Orange.

For those of you that are not familiar with where Conca D'Oro is located, it's in a non-descript strip mall on Tustin, between Katella and Chapman Avenues. Fans of the TV show Storage Wars might know this shopping center because this is where Brandi and Jarrod have their store, Now and Then Second Hand Store. We did not have any sightings of either of them, but we did take a picture of the cardboard cutout in their store window.

As popular as Jarrod and Brandi are, Conca D'Oro might be a little more popular. This Orange restaurant has been here for 55 years now. That's a long time. Back when Eisenhower was in the White House, the top three TV shows were all westerns, and Chubby Checker was teaching us all how to do The Twist, Conca D'Oro was doing what they were doing on this night in 2015, feeding lots of hungry people.

We got here right around 6pm, and the restaurant was half full, but during the length of our stay, it got full, with at least a 15 minute wait to be seated. The vibe inside had family style Italian restaurant written all over it. From the Sinatra playing over the speakers, to the broken in booths, and the dated decor, this is definitely an old school joint. Maybe 15 or so tables, and a very large menu, with many options, almost all of which you have seen before. They have a bunch of pasta dishes, baked dishes, chicken, beef, and fish entrees as well. It took us a little bit of time to go through the menu, but we made our choices, and waited for our food to arrive. Let's see if it's the food that has kept this place in business for over six decades.

After ordering we were brought a basket of bread. The bread here was reminiscent of the garlic bread my mom used to make using the Lawry's Garlic Spread. Toasted well, with equal parts of butter and garlic, this simply made bread was a good start to our meal, and added to the nostalgia of this restaurant.

Both Katie and I had salads included in our meals at Conca D'Oro. These Small Dinner Salads were pretty good, and made even better with a very well made blue cheese dressing. It was thick, with a good blue cheese flavor. Joining the fresh greens on the plate are olives, shredded carrots, and tomatoes. I really enjoyed that there was plenty of dressing used here. It always makes a salad more enjoyable to me.

It always amuses me what Katie orders when we go out. I think I know which way she's leaning, then she picks something out of left field, like this Chicken Marco Polo ($23). This heavy dish had pieces of chicken in it, along with broccoli and ham, then is covered in a thick white sauce and baked. The top gets nice and crusty, while the inside was steaming hot. She really enjoyed this, as the chicken was tender, the sauce was flavorful, and the ham added a little liveliness to the plate. This also came with a side of pasta, which she chose to go with the rigatoni with a white cream cheese sauce. Just like the white sauce for her main course, this cheese sauce was pretty tasty, and heavy. She ended up taking most of this home for my lunch the next day. As if that was not enough food, this also came with a generous side of vegetables. This bowl of veggies included asparagus, green beans, carrots, and what I'd describe as a potato croquette. All the vegetables were fresh, and cooked to fork tender. The potato was my favorite of course, as it is probably the least healthy for you.

Kind of like Katie's selections at recent dinners, my dad's choices have been all over the map. He has stayed true to seafood in Italian restaurants, as he did on this night, with the Angel Hair Shrimp and Scallops ($17.95). This usually comes with fettuccine, but my dad is more partial to the thinner angel hair pasta. They were very accommodating with substitutions at Conca D'Oro. Along with the angel hair, this plate included bay shrimp and bay scallops in a fettuccine sauce. The big guy had no problem polishing this plate off, which he said was good, and he loved that there was plenty of seafood in this. He'd probably try something else on future visits here, but had no qualms about his dinner.

My mom zeroed in on the pizzas at Conca D'Oro, and could not resist this Small Pepperoni Pizza ($8.25). My mom thought this was a pretty good sized pizza for under nine dollars, but she's not really a big eater. The pizza here is pretty solid, with a good amount of cheese, and I enjoyed that they put the pepperoni underneath the layer of cheese. It helps insulate it, and you forget it's there, so it's a nice surprise when you bite into it. She took a few slices home for my dad's lunch the next day.

Back when I thought Olive Garden was great Italian food, when I was eight years old, I would always order their Tour of Italy dinner. It had fettuccine alfredo, lasagna, and chicken Parmesan, and this Combo #2 ($26.25) from Conca D'Oro kind of reminded me of that dish. This version still had lasagna, but also featured veal Parmesan, and rigatoni with meat sauce. Predictably, this is better than what you can get at Olive Garden, but of course, what isn't? I liked this dish, but was not in love with it. It was missing something. The veal was good, but not as tender as I would have liked. The rigatoni was good, but needed to be jazzed up with Parmesan cheese and peppers. The lasagna was probably my favorite out of the three, but even that kind of seemed lacking from a shortage of meat included in this version. It had meat, but I like when the meat is left in bigger chunks, so you know it's there. Still not a bad plate of food, and perfect for people with big appetites, or people that are indecisive about what to order.

Both Katie's and my dinners came with our choice of ice cream or sherbet. I don't remember the choices offered, but I got the Rainbow Sherbet, for some reason. It was pretty good, and helped cleanse my palate after eating all of that food. Katie had the Chocolate Ice Cream to round out her dinner, which she shared with my parents. The ice cream kind of tasted like Thrifty brand ice cream, but I could be wrong about that.

It's easy to see why Conca D'Oro has been around so long. They give you lots of food for a pretty decent price. We saw many people leaving here with food for the next day, or maybe a midnight snack. Everything I tried was good here, but wasn't drive thirty minutes out of your way good. Nothing really popped for me at Conca D'Oro, but it is a fine restaurant. If we ran out of places to eat with my parents, I would definitely come back here again. A solid neighborhood Italian joint. Service was a little hurried, but everyone we encountered was really nice, and welcoming. Another successful night of Italian food and catching up with my parents.

Out of five subway cars, (because in 2012 the Rome Metro added a Conca D'Oro station to it's underground), five being best to zero being worst, Conca D'Oro gets 3 subway cars.

Not surprisingly, Conca  D'Oro does not have a website, but you can find information about them on their Yelp page, which you can access here:

Conca D'Oro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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