Friday, May 18, 2018

No Clowning Around at Breakfast Time at Goodfellas


Goodfellas Cafe
1090 Pomona Road
Corona, CA 92882

It's not every day that we are out in Corona, especially for breakfast. The stars aligned for us on this particular Sunday though. We were out in Riverside at my awards banquet for work and decided we did not want to drive all the way home late at night. It also just so happened that my very good friend Ozker moved out to Corona with his much better half, Bianca and her daughter, so we definitely had to check out their new home.

After a quick tour, and a little catching up, breakfast was definitely in order, even if  I could barely stomach it after checking out Ozker's Dodger shrine. Ugh, absolutely awful. Anyways, I had decided where we were going to be eating before coming up here, and it was only about a ten-minute ride from Ozker's new homestead. Goodfellas Cafe was our destination to celebrate our friend's new address.

Goodfellas appears to be the place to eat breakfast in Corona. We got here at just after 11 and were met with a thirty-minute wait, which was just enough time for Ozker to explain to us how his fourth place Dodgers were still going to be able to win the World Series this year. Goodfellas is situated on the north side of the 91 Freeway, on the corner of Lincoln and Pomona, right next door to the Best Western.

If the name of this restaurant doesn't give it away, once inside you will for sure get that the theme of this restaurant is gangster movies. In the waiting area, there are plenty of framed pictures of stars associated with mobster films and TV shows, along with plenty of pictures of the Rat Pack and other associates of this genre. There's even an old slot machine near the register, which unfortunately was for display only.

The menu at Goodfellas is pretty extensive. Omelets, traditional and special breakfast plates, pancakes, waffles, french toast, and Mexican breakfast options are offered. Since we were here a little later than normal breakfast hours, we also had the choice to try out their lunch menu, which had plenty of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and appetizers. We all decided to try out breakfast though, so let's take a look to see how it all worked out for us.



Let's start with Ari's first meal of the day, the Classic Omelette ($10.45). The omelets at Goodfellas are made with four eggs, and this base model includes your choice of either bacon, ham, or sausage, she went with bacon, and American and cheddar cheeses. From across the table, this did not look like a four egg omelet, but they did include plenty of hash browns. You also get a breakfast bread choice to go along with this dish, and Ari picked a biscuit. No complaints from Ari, but she does not really seem like the kind of kid that would complain about too much, other than her mom dating Ozker. Just kidding big guy.



Katie loves Breakfast Burritos ($8.95), so it was no surprise that she'd try this one from Goodfellas. This burrito was filled with her choice of breakfast meat, she went with bacon, and three eggs, cheddar cheese, and hash browns. Sour cream and salsa were served on the side. Katie called this a very solid breakfast burrito but nothing really made it pop. It was sturdy but needed some guacamole or a better salsa to push it to new heights. Good, just not great.



Bianca went big here, with this NY Angus Choice Steak and Eggs ($17.95). This was a very big steak for breakfast. From across the table, I liked the grill marks that were streaked across the top of it. This plate also came with three eggs, hash browns, and choice of a breakfast bread. Bianca was too busy eating to give me an opinion of her meal, so I guess I'll take that as she liked it.



Ozker and I were looking at the pictures of the food at Goodfellas at work before coming here, and we knew when we saw this Scrambler Special ($11.25), this would be the thing for us. Three scrambled eggs are mixed with the holy trinity of breakfast meats, ham, bacon, and sausage, then topped with gravy and cheese with hash browns and biscuits mixed in here somewhere. Sounded great, and when it came to the table I could not wait to dig in. It did not really live up to the expectations I had in my mind though. It was fine, but everything kind of got lost here. I could not get a good taste of the biscuits, they also did not seem to add a lot of bacon to this, and the gravy was kind of on the thin side. It was a big plate and filled me up, but like Katie's burrito, it did not wow me, which is a shame because this one plate has all of my favorite breakfast foods included.

The five of us walked out of Goodfellas Cafe with the same opinion of our breakfast. It was good, we'd come back, but it was not worth the half hour plus wait that we experienced on this late Sunday morning. I'd also definitely get something else on my next visit here, maybe the country fried steak, pancakes, or even maybe their burger. With how busy they were, we did experience very good service on this morning. Our server was not overly attentive, but she did keep an eye on us while moving things along nicely. Glad we had the chance to see Ozker's new house and visit with the always wonderful Bianca and Ari. Great seeing you guys.

Out of five shovels, (because in the movie Goodfellas this was one of the most useful tools used by the gangsters in that iconic 90's movie), five being best to zero being worst, Goodfellas Cafe gets 3 shovels.

Goodfellas Cafe does not have a website, but you can find info about them on their Yelp page here: https://www.yelp.com/biz/goodfellas-cafe-corona-2

Friday, May 11, 2018

Angelina's Spring Menu Preview


Angelina's Pizzeria Napoletana
8573 Irvine Center Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618

Spring is not only the season of rebirth, rejuvenation, and renewal, it's also the season when restaurants wake up from their winter slumber and debut new menu items. Even though we don't have much of a winter in OC, chefs like to roll out new menu items to entice guests back into their restaurants after they have already forgotten about their new year's resolutions of dieting and saving money. Spring menus often consist of lots of produce and lighter meals. I was beyond excited when I was recently invited to try some of the new spring menu items at one of my favorite restaurants, Angelina's in Irvine.

Angelina's holds a pretty special place in my heart. Before I had eaten here in late 2016, I had never really been a big fan of Neapolitan pizza. It was always soggy in the middle and lacked the cheesiness and hefty toppings of my beloved Americanized pizzas that I grew up with. The pizza I had on that night made me a convert to authentic style pizza from the birthplace of pizza, Naples. That night I also became a fan of Angelina's, and I was excited to make a return visit.

There's a new chef in the kitchen since the last time we were here. Chef Jonah Amodt, formerly of Andrea at Pelican Hill Resort now takes the culinary reigns at Angelina's. Together with owners Filippo and Sho Fusco, and front of the house presence, Antonio Bevacqua, they have created a great team which has the dining room and bar area full even on weeknights. Not such an easy feat, especially with all the dining options in this Los Olivos Marketplace, and when you consider that the Irvine Spectrum is a stone's throw across the 405 Freeway.

Angelina's is, of course, famous for their pizzas, but they are so much more than that. Fantastic appetizers, farm fresh salads, amazing pasta dishes, and more substantial entrees are all winners here. Happy hour draws plenty of guests, with a plethora of food options that are $8 and under, not to mention beverage specials that include selected beers for $5 and wines and cocktails for $6, which is a great deal for this neighborhood.

This new spring menu makes its debut this week at this Irvine Angelina's location, as well as the Dana Point venue, which is situated in the same shopping center as Gelson's, right where Crown Valley and PCH meet. I have yet to visit the Dana Point spot, but since it's pretty close to where we live, it's just a matter of time before we make it there. For now, let's take a look at the new offerings from Chef Jonah's spring menu.



Starting things off for us on this evening was one of Angelina's new appetizer offerings, the Burrata di Primavera (Spring Burrata). This starter just screamed spring with its lighter than usual take on burrata. The very well done burrata was joined by some Engish peas, fava beans, and accentuated with hints of mint and lemon. When I read the description before having this, I was a little skeptical about how this appetizer was going to work out, but it ended up being delicious. The fava beans and peas went well with the soft cheese, and the lemon and mint came through at the end of each bite.



I realize that octopus is not for everyone, but ever since I had it barbecued a few years ago at another food event, I have become a fan. I'm also a fan of the incarnation here, Polipo e Ceci. In case your Italian is a bit rusty like mine, this translates to octopus and chickpeas, which also came with tomatoes and a sprig of marjoram. The octopus was nice and chewy, but not in a bad way. I liked the earthy feel of the chickpeas as it interacted with the acidity of the tomatoes and the hint of marjoram that wafted through this dish.



Chef Jonah had everyone at our table all excited with this Gnocchi al Sugo di Carne (Gnocchi in Meat Sauce), and for good reason. It was out of this world good. Gnocchi bolognese topped with burrata and some basil. The meat sauce on this was what made this for me. I could have eaten this sauce on an old shoe and it would have made it delicious. The gnocchi was obviously made fresh, the burrata added a nice creaminess, and I was sad this was only a tasting of the new menu because I could have devoured a lot more of this. A reason to come back soon I guess.



Not from the new menu, but I was pretty stoked to see these old favorites appear before us. The sight and taste of the Margherita Pizza is enough to make anyone's days infinitely brighter. Buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano Pomodoro sauce, some fresh basil, and finished off with some extra virgin olive oil is a classic. The toppings on this pizza are excellent but don't sleep on the dough here. It has a great chew to it, it's sturdy enough to hold the toppings, and there are no wet parts to it, which is one of my major problems with Neapolitan pizzas I've had in the past. The Polpette al Sugo (Meatballs with Sauce) is one of the best in OC. They are served in a cast iron skillet, topped with burrata and basil, and drenched in the same incredible Pomodoro sauce that the pizza uses. Very tender meatball with a nice blend of meats make me wish that they'd put a meatball sandwich on their menu someday. If you are ever reading this Chef Jonah, let's try to make this happen.



Next up they trotted out two new entrees for us on this evening, starting with this Halibut di Stagione (In Season Halibut). They use Alaskan halibut for this one, which is seared delicately, then paired with a creamy leek puree, sauteed oyster mushrooms, and wild ramps. Up until this evening, I had no idea what wild ramps were, and after a quick Google search, I learned that they are a wild onion from either eastern Canada or the eastern part of the US. See, you can learn new stuff on a restaurant blog. This halibut was buttery soft and I loved the mushrooms and wild ramps that came with this. The leek puree was good, but I could have used even more of it. Chef Jonah definitely has command over his sauces.



Very fitting that this would be the grand finale on this evening, as there was an audible gasp among the food writers when the Costole di Vitello (veal ribs) were placed in front of us. This veal chop was had a lot going on with it; a charred rapini puree, apricot mustard, and it was served alongside some potatoes. I'm not sure who Angelina's meat purveyor is, but this was some good quality veal. Tender, with a nice charred crust to it, and the bone added an even deeper flavor. Veal lovers shouldn't miss this one.



By this time of the evening we were all feeling rather full, some of us full all the way up to our eyeballs. I was pretty happy to see that we were going to have a light finish to our meal. Dessert was a Zabaglione al Rabarbaro (rhubarb zabaione). My only brush with rhubarb has been at Mrs. Knott's, and this was nothing like that. The zabaglione is a kind of pudding made with eggs, sugar, and wine. It was served in a dessert cup with raspberries and blackberries. I did not get too much in the way of rhubarb, but it was a nice and easy end to our evening.

I guess I should have mentioned it before, but this was a tasting menu and just miniature versions of what you will get when you order these new items off of Angelina's spring menu. I'd say that Angelina's is pretty lucky to have secured Chef Jonah late last year, and he's lucky they have allowed him to have free range in the kitchen to create these excellent seasonal menus. Angelina's will always be known for their pizzas, but you dig a little deeper and you never know what other treasures you will find here.

I'd like to thank everyone at Angelina's for the wonderful meal and fantastic hospitality on this evening. Everyone from the owners, Filippo and Sho, Chef Jonah who took the time to come out and chat with us about his food and vision for this restaurant, and the servers and food runners who all seemed so proud of what was coming out of the kitchen for us, I thank you all for such a wonderful experience. Lastly, thanks to Sophia Paliov from SPPR for the invite to this very memorable dinner. Thanks so much for including me on this evening. Everything was wonderful.

For more information about Angelina's Pizzeria Napoletana, head to their website here: http://www.angelinaspizzeria.com/

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Anniversary Dinner Part Two


Coastal Kitchen
34091 Pacific Coast Highway
Dana Point, CA 92629

It was a few days after my parents took Katie and me out to celebrate our third wedding anniversary, and after a night of having leftovers from that dinner, Katie's parents wanted us to grace them with our presence to celebrate the big three-year mark. I think they were just surprised that Katie was able to put up with me for this long. As is the custom when we are going out to dinner, I give her mom and dad a list of four restaurants to try, and they decide where we are going to meet. This time they chose Coastal Kitchen in Dana Point.

Coastal Kitchen has been around for close to two years now. Owned by a husband and wife team, Micahel and Christina Grant, both of whom met and worked at Hillstone Restaurant Group, which locally runs Bandera, R + D Kitchen, Gulfstream, and others.  The Hillstone Group runs some of my favorite restaurants, and you can see the subtle touches that the owners have picked up from their former employer in the menu layout, a sleek, yet casual restaurant environment, and even a few menu items, (I'm looking at you trout dip).

Located in a nearly hundred-year-old building on the corner of Blue Lantern and PCH, they did a great job of retooling this restaurant, which dates from the 1920's. Back then it was a cafe and service station for weary travelers that were shuttling between San Diego and Los Angeles. The redone dining space is beautifully decorated in blue and white, with plenty of booths, a rambunctious bar scene, and a tinge of a nautical theme. Also, if you do visit Coastal Kitchen, make sure to take the short walk a block south to the gazebo that overlooks Dana Point Harbor. One of the best views in OC.

The menu at Coastal Kitchen is separated into starters, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and sides. Sandwiches hover around the $17 dollar mark, while bigger entrees range between $18 to $43. Each section of the menu features more than a handful of options for your dining pleasure. I have read some positive and some negative reviews about this place in print, and I was ready to form my own opinion. Let's see which way I was going to come down on the food at Coastal Kitchen.



When we are out with Katie's family, they always order appetizers and on this evening we had three, starting with this Roasted Red Pepper Hummus ($9). This big mound of hummus was topped with an olive tapenade, which I'm not really a fan of, but it helped balance things out here. I did not really get too much spice from the red pepper hummus, but the consistency was spot on, firm but easily scooped with the provided tortilla chips. The ratio of chips to hummus was off by a lot, but we asked for more chips and they obliged us. 


Confession time. This was my first time ever having Parker House Rolls ($5). At Coastal Kitchen they come to the table in a cast iron skillet with an herbed butter plopped in the middle of the four rolls. Since there were four of us, I only had one but I enjoyed it very much. A nice, slightly crunchy outer layer and pillowy soft inside. The outside was studded with specs of salt which went well with the slightly sweet bread. The herbed butter did not add too much to these, and I would have liked to have tried this with just regular butter instead. Glad I can finally say that I've had Parker House rolls.



Pork Belly Bites ($12) were a favorite of Edwin from the OC Weekly when he ate here, so I knew I'd be trying them. The only problem was that they come four to an order and I know Katie and her parents are probably not going to have any, and I know that I shouldn't eat this much pork belly all by myself. I convinced Dennis to have one and Katie committed to a half, so I decided that was good enough and we got them. Pork belly is always delicious, and these were no exception. These big cubes are like bacon on steroids. Fried nicely on the outside with a thin batter, while the inside is soft and has all the flavor that you enjoy about bacon, but in a more solid form. I also liked the use of the ginger glaze, which sweetened things up a bit and helped to cut the saltiness. Nicely done, but make sure you have some help with these. Even I know that all this pork belly is not good for you.





Both Katie and her mom got the same Chicken BLT Sandwich ($17) but with different sides. When this sandwich came to the table it took me back to what Katie had when we visited R + D Kitchen over a year ago. It appears that they use the same bread, and the chicken is breaded and pounded thin just like the Ding's Crispy Chicken sandwich at R + D.  At Coastal they differentiate this sandwich from that one by adding bacon, swiss cheese, mayo, and arugula to it. Katie liked this sandwich as it was not too heavy, but still had nice textures and flavors going for it. The arugula and crispy chicken had some nice crunch, while the bacon added smokiness. The menu states that you can get either slaw or fries for your side, but our server told us any of the sides were an option. Katie took advantage of this loophole by trying their Fried Cauliflower. She should have stuck with the fries or slaw. The cauliflower was very boring, over fried, and really needed some sort of sauce to pizzaz it up a bit. I liked the red cabbage slaw a lot. A nice mix of shredded carrots and red and green cabbage gave this a nice crunch, and the liberal use of a delicious dressing made this side a winner in my book.


Katie's dad Dennis loves to have soup for dinner, and that was his plan when he heard that they were serving one of his favorites on this evening, New England Clam Chowder ($9). This bowl came out piping hot and added to the chowder was some crumbled bacon and croutons. He must have loved this as it did not last too long.




After checking out the menu at home before stepping foot in here, I had narrowed my dinner options to about half a dozen before our night out at Coastal Kitchen. When I finally was sitting at the table, at the moment of truth, I ordered the Cuban Sandwich ($17). This Cuban utilized braised pork shoulder, black forest ham, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, and plenty of pickles and mustard seeds. I thought this sandwich was just okay. I noticed that it was missing something when I ate it, and it was mustard. The mustard seeds on this were just odd, and too many pickles kind of overpowered here. The meats and cheeses were good, the bread nicely toasted but this sandwich needed yellow mustard to round it out. I also took our server's suggestion to try another side item rather than the suggested slaw or fries and went with the Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Not so good. The sprouts were way over roasted, with some being burnt. The kitchen staff must love mustard seeds, as they were on the sprouts as well and did little to help these poor things out. These Brussels sprouts have sent the sprout movement back a few decades.



Our server really talked up the desserts here, but we only had room for one. He suggested that we definitely had to try the S'Mores Pie ($9). A graham cracker crust supports the chocolate custard and the slightly torched marshmallow meringue above it. I liked this dessert but was not in love with it. The graham cracker crust and the rich chocolate custard were good, but the merigue was wasted on me, as I'm not really into either marshmallows or meringue. I moved it off to the side and just ate the rest. I know I'm weird not liking one of the key components of a s'more, but I've been that way ever since I was a kid. We'd go camping and I'd be the only one eating just the chocolate and graham crackers.

I can now understand the mixed reviews for Coastal Kitchen, even though I do not support the harshness of one of the reviewers that did not have a positive experience here at all. There were some hits for me on this visit, the pork belly, clam chowder, parker house rolls, and the coleslaw. These give me hope that there are some hidden gems on this menu, maybe one of the other five items I should have had instead of the Cuban sandwich that I eventually went with. I'm intrigued by the trout dip, the burger, the ribeye, and the ice cream sundae for my next visit. Service was excellent, as our server was not worried about turning over tables quickly, as he was making sure that our dinner went at our desired pace. Very comforting, just like the feel of Coastal Kitchen. It has the feel of a great restaurant, and it might be, but not based on what we had on this one visit. 

Out of five pilgrims, (because Dana Point is named after Richard Henery Dana, a lawyer from Massachussets, who came to California aboard the Pilgrim in 1834), five being best to zero being worst, Coastal Kitchen gets 3 pilgrims.

For more information about Coastal Kitchen, head to their website here: http://www.coastalkitchendanapoint.com/

Monday, May 7, 2018

Anniversary Dinner Part One


La Bettola
18504 Yorba Linda Blvd. 
Yorba Linda, CA 92886

It's anniversary time, and that means that both sets of our parents want to take Katie and me out to celebrate our three years of wedded bliss. Between our parents, they have 97 years of marriage combined. Some pretty impressive stuff there and definitely something to aspire towards. I'm always up for a dinner with our parents, not only will we get a free meal out of the situation, but we might be able to glean a little insight into a lasting marriage. First up was dinner with my parents and a visit back to my hometown of Yorba Linda, and a restaurant I've wanted to try for years, La Bettola.

La Bettola is situated on the corner of Lakeview and Yorba Linda Boulevard, in the middle of the tiny Firestone Village shopping center which also includes a 7-Eleven, Auto Zone, and Round Table Pizza. They have been here for over 15 years, and this would be me and my parents first visit, even though my parents have lived in the Land of Gracious Living for over 40 years.

Very dim, but brightened up a bit with stringed lighting hanging from the ceiling. There are maybe 15 or so tables in this Italian bistro, but even in this rather small space, I did not feel like we were right on top of other diners. The menu here was different from what appears online. The online menu features many items that are not listed on the restaurant menu we were given, but we were assured by our server that they could make whatever we were craving. Prices range from $15 to $28 for the pasta entrees, and the more substantial chicken, veal, and steak entrees are priced at $20 all the way up to $34 for their New York steak. Even though my parents were generous enough to be paying the bill on this evening, I was not going to take advantage and have the steak. Let's take a look at what we did have though.



Bread service was up first for us, and we all really enjoyed this Foccacia sliced in strips. It went well when we dipped it in the olive oil and balsamic. Our server was very generous about refilling this as we went through three baskets of this fresh bread without even blinking an eye.



I love when Italian restaurants include a salad in the price of an entree. It's a nice touch, and it was the case here at La Bettola. The salad in the top picture is their House Salad, which included a nice selection of mixed greens, shaved carrots, and tomato with a house dressing that was a very solid creamy vinaigrette. I'm usually partial to Caesar Salads ($4.50 upcharge), but here I thought it was just pretty average and not worth the extra money for the more superior house salad. The Caesar, which included hearts of romaine, garlic croutons, and dressing, was definitely missing something. It might have needed a stronger hand when applying the dressing, or maybe some large squares of parmesan would have livened up this drab Caesar. 


My mom was pretty heartbroken to see that spaghetti was not on the menu like she saw when she perused the online version before coming here, but true to their word, La Bettola made her something that was not listed on their menu. This Spaghetti Bolognese ($17.95) was a very generous serving, which my mom allowed me to take her uneaten portion home for lunch the next day. I really enjoyed the bolognese sauce, which had some good hunks of meat in it, and the pasta was done nicely. If this would have been my entree I probably would have added some sausage to this dish to make it even better.



When I was looking at the pictures of the food at La Bettola on Yelp, I knew I would be having this Fettuccine Meatball ($24.95). Yes, that is a softball-sized meatball sitting on top of a plate of fettuccine. The meatball included some cheese inside and was very dense. When I ate this in the restaurant I was kind of underwhelmed, but my leftovers tasted awesome. Maybe the sauce, noodles, and the meatball had some time to meld together more. I find that Italian leftovers always taste better the next day, not sure why that is. I admit that I got this for the wow factor it would cause on Instagram, and I'd probably not get it again on future visits, but it ended up being a pretty solid meatball and pasta dish.



My dad picked out something that I also had my eye on, the Linguine Mala Femina ($21.95). This linguine is joined on the plate with chicken, sausage, sundried tomatoes, cajun spices, and a mellow white wine sauce. This dish had a slightly spicy tinge to it. The sausage was not as prominent as I would have liked, but another solid dish. My dad, whose appetite is not as voracious as it once was, had no problem finishing this plate off, which was definitely a good sign that he enjoyed this meal.



Last but not least, Katie would be having this Ravioli Special ($34.95 with chicken added). Inside the ravioli were mushroom and cheese, with a wine based sauce covering the well-made ravioli. She found the sauce to be delicious, while the ravioli themselves were good, but did not knock her socks off. She'd try another dish the next time she visited La Bettola.

After leaving La Bettola I had mixed feelings about this experience. First, I wish they would update their menu to include everything that they offer. The online menu shows way more than the stripped-down menu that is presented to you tableside, and pictures on Yelp show even more items which are not listed on either the online or hard copy menu. Very confusing. I also do not usually comment on the pricing at the restaurants we eat at, but La Bettola's price point seems to be a little out of whack, especially Katie's ravioli. Without the ten dollar chicken topping her ravioli, her meal still would have cost $25 for five ravioli that contained only mushroom and cheese. A little excessive. The food was fine here, but not good enough to warrant a return visit from us. Nothing really wowed us, but I think La Bettola is good for the people of Yorba Linda, a city that needs more independent, locally owned restaurants within its city borders, especially when it comes to Italian food. Very happy my parents took us out to dinner, and even happier if we can live up to their great example of what a marriage should be like. 

Out of five taverns, (because bettola translates to tavern in Italian, another thing that people from Yorba Linda have to do without), five being best to zero being worst, La Bettola gets 3 taverns.

For more information about La Bettola, head to their website here: http://www.labettolayl.com/