Saturday, January 12, 2019

Real Deal Italian Comes to Rancho Santa Margarita

Cibo Italiano
29941 Aventura Suite 1
Rqncho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

I used to have a policy that I'd wait a year before reviewing any new restaurant. My main reason for this was because I had heard the misleading stat that 90 percent of all new restaurants closed within the first year of being in business, and I did not want a blog full of restaurants that you'd never get the chance to try because they had all been shuttered. This stat is, of course, false, because who would take a chance on something when you only have a ten percent chance of success. Okay, besides the millions of people that play the lottery.

The real percentage of restaurants closing in the first year is only 17%, the same as new insurance agencies and brokerages. This has to be good news for the owner of the latest restaurant we visited, which had only been open for a week when we walked through the door. We were out this way picking up the mail for Katie's vacationing parents and decided that we'd give the new Italian place in town a try, Cibo Italiano.

Cibo, which means food in Italian, is run by Chef Gisella Kaplan. She's been in the catering game for a long while, and also had a stint working at the Honda Center, in the food and beverage department with the excellent Chef Jojo Doyle. Chef Gisella was born in Italy and her cuisine explores the many regions of Italy, not just focusing on one part of her beloved homeland. She has some big plans for her place, envisioning it as part Italian deli and bakery, gourmet Italian grocer, and of course cafe. She's also offering a take and bake option, which on the night we were here was lasagna, but I see now on their Facebook page that Cibo is offering a good looking Beef Braciole, which you rarely see on menus in OC.

Speaking of the menu, the early menu at Cibo Italiano featured lunch and dinner items. Lunch was available from 11 to 2 pm, and dinner service begins at 5. I'm not sure if they close in between the two, or if you can order off the lunch menu at dinner, or vice versa, but I'm sure that will all be sorted out as this restaurant grows and matures. The lunch menu has a good number of salad options, along with six sandwich choices. The dinner menu features a quartet of appetizers, pasta and risotto dishes, and the more substantial chicken, meat and fish entrees.

Ordering is done at the counter, and then the food is brought out to you at one of the ten or so tables that dot the comfortable and well-lit dining area. Let's take a look at what we had on this, one of the first weeks of Cibo Italiano being in business.

Everything is made from scratch here at Cibo, and that includes their bread, which we got to try two pieces of. The bread was very fresh, had a good hard crust around it, and was soft and pliable on the inside. According to their Facebook page, Cibo is now offering their baked bread for sale, and it comes out of the oven fresh at 4 pm.

A Side Salad came with my upcoming entree. This came nicely plated with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots, red onion, and mixed greens. Very nicely plated and fresh produce, but there was barely any dressing on this. It was as if they added the dressing with an eye dropper. I should have gotten more dressing, but our entrees came out rather quickly after our salads, and the salad got pushed to the side when our entrees arrived.

Katie was really torn between either the carbonara and what she eventually got, this Homemade Pappardelle Pasta with a Bolognese Ragu ($16.95). I really enjoyed the couple of bites that Katie allowed me to have of this. The ragu is made with grass-fed ground beef and organic pork and takes hours to make. The pasta is fresh and the combination of both the pasta and ragu made this plate a winner. Katie called this heavenly, and would not hesitate to get it again.

Unlike Katie, I had no doubt what I was going to have for dinner on this evening. The  Porchetta Wrapped in Pancetta ($18.95) would be sat in front of me on my initial visit to Cibo Italiano. This plate came with three slices of porchetta, some asparagus, baby red potatoes, and what I believed to be a fig sauce spooned over the porchetta. On the whole, this dish was very tasty, but there were some bites of the porchetta that was a little dry and the temperature of the meal itself was lukewarm at best. Even with these minor issues, I'd still get this entree again.

Cibo Italiano is, of course, going to go through some growing pains, as they had only been open for such a short time when we visited, but I believe there's enough promise at this restaurant/Italian grocer to warrant future visits. The food here is authentically Italian, and freshly made, which is something that is very rare in these parts. I can't help shake the feeling that Chef Gisella might be a little too ambitious with her restaurant starting out, as she's making fresh bread, grab and go dinners, serving both lunch and dinner at the restaurant, baking Italian cookies and desserts, as well as stocking Italian groceries. It made me tired just typing all of that. With all that being said, it will be interesting to see how this restaurant evolves in the near future, and if she'll find people that will help her with the workload she's created for herself. I think it's going to be a delicious ride. 

Out of five laptops, (because in Australia there is a mini-chain of coffee shops with the same name as this restaurant, and most people use their laptops in coffee shops), five being best to zero being worst, Cibo Italiano gets 3 laptops. 

For more information about Cibo Italiano, head to their website here:

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