Thursday, May 31, 2018

Prime Rib Meeting at Summit House

Summit House Restaurant
2000 East Bastanchury Road
Fullerton, CA 92835

Much to the chagrin of my mom, my work schedule has changed. This has meant working weekends, working a little later in the day, and subsequently missing some family gatherings. One such event that I missed due to the drudgery of working a retail job was mother's day. Since I'd missed going with my mom to Mimi's Cafe for dinner on that Sunday, I decided I'd try to make it up to her the next day by taking her and my dad to a restaurant they had never been to before, and a definite upgrade to the Mimi's Cafe they had the day before, Summit House in Fullerton.

Summit House opened their doors in 1991. Perched high above almost all of North OC, Summit House quickly gained a large following as a restaurant for special occasions. Couples looking for that perfect picturesque wedding spot flock to this busy wedding venue. They hold over 100 wedding ceremonies and even more wedding receptions per year. The special events don't stop at guests tying the knot, the dining room is always full of people celebrating a birthday, anniversaries, and as we were on this early Monday evening, a belated mother's day dinner.

I'd been to the Summit House less than a handful of times. Once was for a wedding, I also came here for dinner a couple of times with friends, and also visited my good friend Jack, who used to tend bar here, but has since transitioned to a management position. Very proud of that young man.

I have never been to England but entering the Summit House always brings to mind what I'd imagine an English manor would feel like. High beamed ceilings, a large fireplace off to one side, large and spacious booths, a piano player on most evenings, and large windows taking advantage of the glorious views that OC has to offer lend to the ambiance. The other side of the fireplace reveals an open kitchen where you get to glimpse the busy action of the chefs, while a large wooden table sitting in front of the kitchen prominently displays the wide array of desserts offered on that particular evening.

Dessert would have to wait, as we made our selections off of the dinner portion of the menu. Known for their prime rib, there are other selections to ponder off the menu curated by Chef Timothy Plumb. There's a couple of seafood options, along with chicken and a lamb shank that I hear is incredible. Red meat is the main attraction here though, and along with their famous prime rib, they also feature a prime ribeye and prime filet mignon. There's plenty in the way of starters, soups, and salads too. Let's see how our belated mother's day trip went for us. 

Bread service is something I always like to share with all of you, and it was pretty stellar at Summit House. There were three kinds of bread offered on this evening and all pretty solid. I also enjoyed the butter that was provided. It was rich and could have been an Irish butter. Whatever it was, it was of a higher quality than what you get in those foil-wrapped butter packets. Our fantastic server Karen was not shy about refiling this as many times as was necessary, and she did not show signs of judging our carb addiction.

Ever since Mr. Stox closed in Anaheim, we have been on the lookout for the best crab cake in OC. These Chesapeake Style Crab Cakes ($13) were good, but could not replace the ones we lost when Mr. Stox closed over five years ago now. These were filled with plenty of flaky, delicious crab on the inside, but the outer breading was a little too thick and detracted from the crab on the inside. I liked the dill horseradish aioli, but wish there had been a tad bit more of it. Good, but not great. Our crab cake quest continues.

I can never resist a salad before a big piece of meat, and I guess Katie felt the same as she went with the Summit House Salad ($11). This was not your typical house salad. It came with Boston lettuce that was hydroponically grown by Hollandia Farms, a farm in Carpenteria, which is known for their living lettuce. Also included in the mix was some pancetta, grated gruyere cheese, toasted pecans. croutons, and her choice of dressing which was bleu cheese on this evening. Katie loved the freshness of the produce and the balance of this salad was right on. The slight saltiness of the pancetta, the crunch of the pecans and the grated cheese was a nice touch. One of the better house salads she has had in recent years. I went with my usual Hearts of Romaine with Caesar Dressing ($10). They utilize romaine from Ocean Mist Farms, shaved parmesan, sourdough croutons, and a very good Caesar dressing. I liked that they had a pretty heavy hand when it came to adding the dressing and the parmesan on this traditional Caesar. I probably have to agree with Katie that this was one of the better salads I have had recently.

Katie must not have heard that Summit House is known for their beef, because she went with this vividly vibrant Seabass ($44). When this was placed in front of Katie I thought the sweet chili glaze was going to overpower the delicate sea bass, but it complimented it rather nicely. The sea bass was wonderfully tender and breaded ever so slightly to showcase the flakiness of the fish below the surface. Katie loved this plate a lot. The sauce added a tinge of spice and went well with the well-crafted cilantro jasmine rice. She exclaimed that she'd get this everytime she returned here.

I'll spare sharing with you my parents split plate of their prime rib since they got theirs well done. Who are these people? My first slab of prime rib came out medium well, but they substituted it rather quickly for this perfectly cooked medium rare Summit House Cut of Prime Rib ($44). This slab of beef totally satisfied. The outside ring was not as seasoned as some that I have had, but the beef was nice and tender, with a subtle ribbon of fat running through it, which added a nice flavor. A very generous portion size, which I would estimate to be somewhere in the sixteen-ounce region. This traditional prime rib meal was rounded out with some of the best creamed spinach I have encountered. Not overly drenched with cream, the spinach shined here. The creamed corn was good, but a tad sweeter would have been my preference for this side dish. I have never understood the allure of Yorkshire pudding. It's not very tasty, hard to eat because it's flaky, and I left mine pretty much untouched.

Dessert was our last hurrah at Summit House on this evening, and they started by bringing out their Summit English Trifle ($11) to help us celebrate our late Mother's Day. This English take on a strawberry shortcake was made up of brandy and rum soaked sponge cake, strawberries, custard, and Chantilly whipped cream. It's probably fine for some, but I'm not much of a fan of strawberries and the soaked cake was too soggy for me. I liked the Creme Brulee ($12) a little better. This was a pretty good sized portion which limited the spoon fighting that usually goes on between my parents and us when creme brulee comes out. This was not an overly sweet version, which was nice. A good crunchy topping and vanilla bean custard underneath.

Summit House definitely impressed on this evening as we celebrated Mother's Day a day late. As far as prime rib restaurants go, Summit House is way better than outdated Gullivers, and pretty much in the same rarefied air as Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar. I think I like the prime rib at Five Crowns a bit better, and the sides here a little more. Both restaurants are good options for a traditional prime rib dinner though. Summit House is a great spot for the residents of North OC to enjoy prime rib for any special occasion, or just because you want it. Service was impeccable on this evening. Our server Karen and the rest of the staff really made us feel welcomed and that they really wanted us here, which was very nice. Hopefully, this dinner made up for me not seeing my mom a day earlier.

Out of five frequent flier miles, (because in 1949 a plane left Fullerton Airport to set a then-record of being in the air for 42 days straight and I'd imagine that would have been a lot of airline miles if they had them back then), five being best to zero being worst, Summit House Restaurant gets 3.5 frequent flier miles.

For more information about Summit House, head to their website here:

Monday, May 28, 2018

No Waffling for Our Love of Brussels Bistro

Brussels Bistro
222 Forest Ave. 
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

I blinked and it is late in May already. It seems like a few days ago we were just getting over the holidays. It also seems like forever that Katie and I had a true date night. I knew this had to be remedied right away. Laguna was the site of one of our first date nights over nine years ago, and it always holds a special place for us. Of course, there's always plenty of restaurants that we have yet to try in this seaside paradise, and one of those would be the spot we chose for this evenings festivities, Brussels Bistro.

We had only eaten Belgian food once before, and that was at the now departed Globe in Garden Grove five years ago. We had really enjoyed that experience and had wanted to go back, but they shuttered that restaurant in 2015. Belgian food is not so prevalent in Orange County. A quick Yelp search shows only one Belgian restaurant, and Brussels Bistro is it. There's a Belgian style gastropub in Whittier, a food truck in LA which seems to be all about waffle sandwiches and fries, just like our homegrown Bruxie.

Unlike Bruxie, Brussels Bistro is a full-service restaurant that has more than waffles and fries on its menu. There are mussels in different sauces, three kinds of croquettes, plenty in the way of Belgian entrees, and other meat, fish, and pasta options. I was surprised to learn that this restaurant has been around for 14 years now, and the owners opened it to share an authentic Belgian experience with all of their guests, and share a little of what makes the cuisine from this Benelux country so delicious.

Brussels Bistro is situated on the always busy Forest Avenue in Downtown Laguna. It's closer to PCH and located right underneath Signature Art Gallery. Stepping downstairs into the restaurant, I was immediately struck by how much this place reminded me of Muldoon's over at Fashion Island. The restaurant is a bit cramped, with tables very close together, waiters and other service personnel turning sideways to get by patrons, very uncomfortable chairs that resulted in a cramp in my leg, and noise levels that can not quieted due to the very low ceilings. Even with the uncomfortable surroundings, I was very very excited to try the food that I spied on nearby tables.  

Out first for us right after ordering was a sliced Sourdough bread, with plenty of softened butter packets. The bread had a very sturdy crust and a soft and pillowy inside. It went well with the butter, but I could not wait to dip it into the broth that my forthcoming mussels came with.

Our appetizers and my mussels would have to wait though, as there was a snafu and our entrees came out well before our starters. Katie selected this Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Stew over Puff Pastry ($24) as her meal on this evening. This was a little too heavy for Katie. She liked it, but it overwhelmed a bit in the richness department. There was not only a puff pastry topping this, but it was also underneath as well. It kind of reminded me of a biscuit and gravy dish that you get at breakfast time. The chicken was moist and tender there were plenty of mushrooms, and the sauce coated everything nicely. Definitely not a meal for light eaters. The Belgian Frites came with her meal and were pretty solid as far as frites go. They were a little smaller than a steak fry, and nicely fried without being greasy. They were brought to an even greater level with the sauce selection here. The winners for me were the truffle, the garlic, and the slightly spicy andalouse.

I came to Brussels Bistro not knowing what I was going to be having on this evening, and I finally went with this Boeuf Bourguignon ($25). Good choice by me. This came in two parts. One was a plate of fettuccine noodles, lardons, a couple of carrots, pearl onions, and mushrooms, the second part came in a pot with more carrots and pearl onions, and the beef in a nice and comforting stew. With no guidance as to how to eat this. I just poured the contents of the bowl over the noodles and mixed it all up. This was comfort food to the max. I could feel it warming me from the inside out. The beef was tender like a short rib, but a little more solid than the fall apart tenderness of short rib. The lardons lent a nice smokey bite, and I loved the use of pearl onions in this. I only ate half of this since I had mussels coming as my appetizer, but it was even better the next day for lunch.

I'm not a big mussel connoisseur, but I knew that this was a specialty at Brussels Bistro, so I had to give them a try. Here they have 7 versions to try, and what makes them different is the broth that they come in, which tints the flavor of the mussel. I went with what our server said was most popular, a small pot of the Mariniere, which is a broth made with white wine and garlic. The mussels come from Penn Cove Shellfish in Washington state and are shipped by air three times a week, so these are some of the freshest mussels around. They tasted like it too. Not fishy tasting, no grit inside of them, and some of the biggest mussels I have eaten. There were maybe 15 or so in this small pot, and the garlic was definitely present in the broth. I even got Katie to try one, and although she did not have another one, she was not as opposed to the mussels as she once was. Baby steps.

No date night would be complete without dessert, and on this evening we finished with a bang by getting this Chocolate Crepe ($9). Belgian chocolate, two scoops of vanilla ice cream inside the crepe, and whipped cream made this dessert a winner. The ice cream did melt pretty fast because it was blanketed by the warmed crepe. The crepe was light, but a tad rubbery, but the very good chocolate and ice cream more than made up for that.

Brussels Bistro was an excellent choice for a date night spot. Yes, it was crowded and noisy, but it was nice trying something new and unique to OC. If there's anything that I've learned from the two times that I've experienced Belgian food, its that the meals are very warming and comforting, and there's always the opportunity to have Belgian chocolate at the end of the meal. A big plus. Even though we got our appetizers after our entrees, service on this evening was very strong, and our server Francois answered all of our questions and made sure we were taken care of throughout our stay. Glad we took some time out from this fast-moving year to take a night out for ourselves.

Out of five saxophones, (because this woodwind instrument was invented in Belgium in 1846, and without this instrument, there would have been no Kenny G. Thanks a lot Belgium), five being best to zero being worst, Brussels Bistro gets 3.5 saxophones.

For more information about Brussels Bistro, head to their website here:

New York State of Mind at Tommy Pastrami

Tommy Pastrami New York Delicatessen
25461 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

My friend Frank retired after close to 50 years in the grocery business. In that time, he witnessed a bunch of innovations. He went from punching in the prices manually to being able to scan them instead, he went from paper bags to plastic ones and then having customers bringing in their own bags or having to cough up a dime per bag. He was also around when the meat department stopped selling dinosaur meat. Okay, that last one was not real, but my point is that Frank is a really old guy.

I bring Frank up because he now has a lot of spare time now that he's retired. He likes keeping up with the gossip and goings on in his former workplace, so we have lunch once a week to catch him up to speed. We have our usual spots we like to haunt, but when something new opens up we like to go check them out. Frank doesn't seem to mind trying new places, so when I heard that a new sandwich place had opened up nearby, we headed to Tommy Pastrami for my one-hour lunch break.

Tommy Pastrami has three locations, one in Arizona, one in Santa Ana, and this one in Laguna Hills, which shares space with Bagel Me. Still, no clue where this location is? It's on the corner of Paseo de Valencia and Alicia, behind the Mobil gas station and Pizza Hut, right next door to a tae kwon do studio and Yogurtland. That should give you a good shot to find this hidden spot. I think I had eaten at Tomy Pastrami way back when they were located right next to the courthouse in Santa Ana, but that location has since closed.

The Tommy of Tommy Pastrami is actually Tommy Cassella, who worked in a Brooklyn deli over four decades ago. Learning from his mentor, Irving, his quest was to learn everything about the restaurant business. After Irving's passing, Tommy moved west with all the knowledge he gleaned from Irving and opened a full-service restaurant in Phoenix. This is the basis for the Tommy Pastrami of today.

I had never been to Bagel Me before, as I have no love for the bagel, which I call a poor man's donut. I was pretty impressed with the size of the Bagel Me menu though and made a mental note to maybe come back and try their stuff sometime. The Tommy Pastrami menu is pushed into the far corner of the restaurant, where you order at the register. The menu is a little smaller at this south county location than its sister restaurant in Santa Ana. Missing are the burgers, cheesesteak sandwich, and Italian sandwiches, but your probably not going to miss them, this is a restaurant for pastrami. They also feature brisket, corned beef, Nathan's hot dogs, turkey, tuna, egg salad, and a couple of side items, including chili cheese fries and a potato knish. Since we only had an hour, Frank and I made our selections rather quickly, found a seat, and waited about ten minutes for our food to arrive at our table. Let's see our take on this new sandwich joint in town.

Frank was a little intimidated by the pictures of the big sandwiches at Tommy Pastrami, so he ordered this Half Pastrami Sandwich ($7.95) on a french roll. This did not really look like a half a sandwich, but it ended up being just the right size for the lighter eating Frank. The sandwiches here come with just the pastrami and a pickle on the side. There are deli mustard and hot sauce on the tables, which Frank used liberally. He liked the softness of the bread and felt the pastrami was one of the better ones he has had in OC. High praise for tough to please Frank.

I went big here, even though I knew I had another four hours left of work, but I decided I'd take one for the team to give you a good grasp of this place. I'm just giving like that. This NY Reuben ($13.95) was filled with plenty of pastrami, sliced swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on toasted rye. I really enjoyed this sandwich. The toasted rye had a great crunch to it, the pastrami was flavored nicely and very tender, while the sauerkraut kind of overpowered a bit, the cheese mellowed things out. I'd probably see if they could substitute coleslaw for the sauerkraut next time to make a Rachel sandwich, which is something that I prefer over a Reuben. As if the sandwich was not enough to fill me up, I also got a side of Potato Salad ($2.75) as well. This was a very solid version of one of my favorite salads. Creamy, yet firm potatoes were mixed with plenty of red onion and sliced olives. Thick and satisfying, this salad was a good counterpart to the saltiness of the sandwich. A nice yin and yang thing going on between the two.

I liked the pastrami here, and Tommy Pastrami will definitely become part of our lunch rotation every month or so. One of the better pastrami sandwich spots in pastrami starved south OC, but not quite as good as my favorites I have had north of the El Toro Y, which include; Katella Deli, Benjie's, and Bronx Sandwich Co. The best I've had to date is a little farther north in LA county, Langer's and Brent's Deli in Northridge, which are both out of this world great. Tommy Pastrami will definitely do the trick when I don't feel like driving too far. Service was smooth and there was plenty of seating, which I think won't last long once word gets out that they are open in this awkward location. Speaking of awkward, it was another great lunch with Frank, and I can't wait to see where we end up next week.

Out of five hawks, (because the mascot for nearby Laguna Hills High School is the hawks, and I can only imagine that hawks love pastrami as well), five being best to zero being worst, Tommy Pastrami gets 3 hawks.

For more information about Tommy Pastrami New York Delicatessen, had to their website here:

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:

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: