Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Little Italian Before Takeoff

Scarantino's Sports Bar and Grill
23862 Bridger Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630

It seems like it had just happened last week, but its been a couple months now, and it was again time to take our good friends Chuck and Stephanie up to LAX for their seasonal trip to South Carolina. They usually leave the picking of a restaurant to me, but this time our wise, old friend Chuck wanted us to try one of his favorite places, Scarantino's Sports Bar and Grill in Lake Forest.

I've lived in South OC for a good amount of years now, and have seen this restaurant numerous times while passing it on El Toro Road. It's really kind of out of the way, sharing a building with Arby's and across the street from McDonald's and Honey Baked Hams. This area of El Toro Road is always hard to get around because there's always so much traffic, so we almost always try to avoid it, unless good old Chuck is driving, which he was on this evening.

When we arrived at Scarantino's on a recent Friday around 6, we were met with a change of ownership announcement on the window, and an alert that they are only going to be open Thursday through Sunday for dinner during this transitional phase. I've also heard rumblings that they might just close or be remodeling this restaurant, but haven't gotten confirmation on that as of this writing. There's also no mention of them closing on their Facebook page, which is updated rather frequently.

The sports bar portion, along with the front patio of this restaurant were teeming with people all throughout our stay, but the restaurant side only had us and one other party eating here. The restaurant is dark, sunken, and almost cave like. Not dirty exactly, but definitely its seen better days. The menu has all of the Italian classics that you would come to expect from an Italian restaurant in Southern California. There are plenty of pasta choices, along with seafood, chicken, and beef dishes, with none of them exceeding the $20 price point. Now I was starting to see why Chuck wanted to eat here. Let's check out what each of us had to fuel us up for our long drive up the 405 Freeway.

Shortly after ordering, this bread basket arrived. Toasted Bread and Herbed Foccacia were included here, with plenty of butter. Nothing out of the ordinary, but pretty decent for a bread basket, and they were pretty good about refilling this.

Main entrees come with either your choice of minestrone soup or a house salad. Katie and I both selected a House Salad to start out with. Again, this was a pretty basic salad, with iceberg and romaine lettuce, red cabbage, a few shards of carrots, tomatoes, and your choice of dressing. The produce was fresh, and they did use plenty of dressing on it.

Not that we needed anymore bread, but we ordered this Garlic Bread ($5) appetizer before we knew we would be getting a bread basket to start our meal. This garlic bread kind of resembled one that I grew up with, made with the Lawry's Garlic Spread. They also added some seasonings to top this off. Pretty good bread, which was toasted well, and included a good amount of garlic flavor.

Entrees were out pretty quickly, and we'll start with Katie's choice, the Cannelloni ($12). These pasta crepes were filled with ricotta and Romano cheeses, meat, and spinach, and served on top of a meat sauce, with Mornay sauce covering the crepes. Katie called this a solid Italian dish, but nothing that knocked her socks off. She thought it would be heavier than it was, and she liked the way the red sauce and Mornay sauce balanced each other out. She'd probably get something else on her next visit to Scarantino's though.

Not wanting to fill up on a big meal before their flight, (or is it another cost cutting move by Chuck?), Stephanie and Chuck split this Chicken Parmesan ($16). Two lightly breaded chicken breasts, doused with marinara and topped with mozzarella cheese. Chuck predictably loved this dish, while Stephanie thought it was just okay. The menu did not state it, but this came with sauteed veggies and a side of pasta. I tried both, and they were both all right.

Before showing up at Scarantino's, I did a little research about what people online liked here, and the overwhelming favorite was this Lasagna ($12). They used words like huge, delicious, and cheesy. I'd use words like, tiny, okay, and cheesy. I was expecting this to be huge, but I polished this off rather easily. The bolognese was good, and I liked the fact there was a lot of cheese here, but the rest of this was kind of flat flavor wise. This could have been helped with some sausage or even more meat in their sauce. I doctored this up with some much needed red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese, but even then this was just average lasagna. Not one of my favorites.

Scarantino's really failed to impress. I'd sum this restaurant up by saying that it wasn't awful, but if you want food that's going to satisfy, you might want to head somewhere else. Of course they are getting new owners, so this restaurant might improve in the future. We all declared that there is much better Italian dining around this area, (Biaggio's, Tutto Famiglia, and Romano Cucina just to name a few). We did experience some polite and efficient service on this evening, and the food did get out on time, so we could get Chuck and Stephanie to the airport in plenty of time to catch their flight.

Out of five koala bears, (because some of you are probably not aware that the city of Lake Forest is home to a 400 plus acre grove of eucalyptus trees, a favorite among koala bears), five being best to zero being worst, Scarantino's Sports Bar and Grill gets 2 koala bears.

Scarantino's Sports Bar and Grill does not have a website, but you can find information about them on their Yelp page here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/scarantinos-sports-bar-and-grill-lake-forest

Scarantino's Italian Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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