Contemporary Cool

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Chef Alessandro Pirozzi presents a stylish lounge and divine dishes at Mare Culinary Lounge.

By Linda Domingo | Photos by Jody Tiongco

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LBM_37_Dine_Mare Culinary Lounge_By Jody Tiongco-15Mare Culinary Lounge is there for nights when you need a little of this and a little of that: some artsy Laguna surroundings infused with some hip LA vibes; some service that makes you feel at home with some menu items that transport you overseas; something savory followed by something sweet.

Walk into the contemporary Italian restaurant, and you’re greeted with a “bella” or “signore” and shown to your seat among sleek white tables and circular lighting fixtures, all enveloped in ambient blue lighting. “It is more like an LA or Miami lounge,” says owner and chef Alessandro Pirozzi, who also owns Cucina Alessa. The vogue dining area is not without whimsy: Miscellaneous doorknobs adorn walls and a projector displays a piece of video art near the lounge piano.

While the decor is contemporary and the menu inventive, chef Alessandro adds, “Almost everything is still homemade.” His simple philosophy of freshly crafting food in-house shines through in each meticulously constructed dish.

A meal at Mare is not to be rushed, so after a flute of prosecco try one or four of Alessandro’s appetizers. The olive fritte and stuffed sweet peppers are a contrasting pair of salty and sweet dishes to share, while the polpo Mediterranean and branzino may feature the most delicate use of seafood in town. The polpo (octopus) is served as a carpaccio seasoned with black Sicilian lava salt and baby capers, and the branzino is sea bass that has been so thinly shaved it cooks on the hot dish on which it is served.

Next, discover the chef’s love affair with pasta. The limoncello radiatori, the restaurant’s signature pasta, is served with lobster tail, shallots, pinot grigio and lemon sauce. The ravioli d’aragosta also features lobster, along with fennel, a sherry reduction and vodka cream sauce. For a dish rich in umami, the veal osso buco agnolotti contains mushrooms and a brown butter sage sauce. The menu may sound like unfriendly territory for vegetarians, but the staff is happy to subtract meat from almost any dish.

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The chef’s take on filet mignon is not easy to pass up. Served on a wooden cutting board, the 8-ounce steak is another study in contrasts: The savory center cut is topped with amarena cherries and a port wine reduction, making each bite decadently satisfying.

Top off with the tart lemon cream custard, an elegant dessert served in a martini glass. Leave sated, until the next night you need a little of this and a little of that. LBM


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