Chefs are becoming celebrities with their own daily cooking shows and TV appearances, giving tips on healthy living and publishing cookbooks with recipes for delicious meals. Many chefs now own and work in their restaurants with their celebrity status drawing a crowd of customers. Orange County is pleased to have many of these chef-owned restaurants.
6700 W Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Chef and Owner Alessandro Pirozzi was born in Naples, Italy and spent time in the kitchen with his grandmother from an early age. She started him out on the lessons of Italian cooking. Over the years, his love of cooking led him to learn about the cuisine of every part of Italy, which in turn prompted his drive to become a certified chef. He has crafted Cucina Alessa into a beloved Italian spot and it continues to flood with happy diners. Praises abound from such local publications like OC Register, the Daily Pilot and the Orange Coast. Lucky for you, this delicious food doesn’t have to come at the expense of a large bill. From the angel hair pasta with garlic, fresh basil and pomodoro sauce at $10.99 to the homemade limoncello fusilli with prawns, scallops and garlic white wine sauce at $23.50, one can affordably enjoy the freshness and cuisine of Italy. Sparkling wines and champagne can be ordered by the glass or the entire bottle.
The Golden Truffle Catering and Restaurant
1767 Newport Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Owner and chef Alan Greenly began his career as a caterer, which he has been doing for over 30 years in southern California. The restaurant also started in catering but is now, in appearance and atmosphere, more like a bistro with an extensive, ever-changing wine list. Customers who were previously pleased with his catering service continue to show support with constant visits to the restaurant. The menu, which changes daily, combines simplicity with complex flavors that show influences from Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. This array of flavors gives clarity to the constant flow of fans walking through the doors. From appetizers like southern-fried jidori chicken liver beignets and duck tacos to entrees like Moroccan-style lamb burgers with cayenne fries and Jamaican oxtail stew with root vegetables and mashed potatoes, diners can enjoy many exotic tastes.
4251 Martingale Way
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Chef and owner Franco Barone grew up in the restaurant business and at an early age, he took over the family restaurant in Milan. In 1982, he came to America, working at many high-profile restaurants where he became known as a talented chef. Named chef of the year by Orange County Business Journal, Barone quickly earned interest from locals. In 2010, he and his wife opened Il Barone restaurant, which highlights his unique approach to traditional Italian cuisine. Fresh seafood and meat selections are part of the moderately priced lunch and dinner menu. The fried calamari fritters with spicy tomato sauce is priced at $9 while the veal dishes – scaloppini topped with Parma prosciutto, veal medallions sautéed in garlic or veal cutlets seared and coated with seasoned bread crumbs – cost only $24.
2981 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Jenny Ross is the owner and executive chef at this OC hotspot, and diners are lucky for it. 118 Degrees was voted the best vegan restaurant in 2010 by Orange Coast Magazine because it is a place that has become known for healthy, raw cuisine, organic wines and great smoothies, served in a eco-friendly atmosphere. Ross, author of “The Art of Raw Living Food,” has exploded with popularity, offering her product line of groceries throughout the country for avid fans. She is largely responsible for the boom in the raw-foods movement and Costa Mesa diners can tell you why. A stop at this restaurant will provide coffee and tea prepared from freshly ground organic beans and a menu that changes according to the seasons. Dishes such as macadamia coconut curry wraps, sweet basil pasta and sweet corn tamales will undoubtedly result in empty plates. Check the menu to see what is being served this summer.
Nirvana Grille Restaurant & Catering
24031 Marguerite Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
The Nirvana Grille is a family-run California bistro that started in Mission Viejo in 2006 and expanded to Laguna Beach in 2008. It began in 2000 as a catering company, a service that is still offered. The celebrated Executive Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales has received numerous accolades from such publications as Laguna Beach Magazine and OC Metro Magazine, among others. The continual mentions for her culinary creations are hard to go unnoticed among area diners; the Nirvana Grille is constantly buzzing with fans. Lindsay and her husband, Luis, offer not only a dinner menu, but a gluten-free and vegan menu as well. With fresh, local, organic ingredients, expect to find such delights as smoked salmon risotto, spaghetti squash bolognese, raclette fondue and creamy polenta.
Mona Graham is a freelance writer, writing for Examiner.com. Mona has lived in Orange County since 1958 and has a great familiarity with the area. Her hobbies are travelling, writing and photography. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.