Taste of the Town

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A restaurant resource for dining out in Laguna Beach.


No Let Up

The Nolet family continues to inspire spirited feedback after releasing their own gin.

Nolet’s Silver Swizzle
Muddle 4 slices skinless cucumber and 4 pieces of purple basil
2 ounces Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin
¾ ounce lemon verbena syrup
¾ ounce lime juice
1 dash angostura bitters

With its USA headquarters based locally in Aliso Viejo, Nolet’s produces some of the most acclaimed, high-end spirits around, including the esteemed Ketel One vodka. After perfecting and successfully marketing their top-shelf vodka in the U.S., the Nolets set out on a quest to make a very special dry gin worthy of its family legacy. And from that came Nolet’s Silver, a unique gin instilled with the flavors of Turkish rose, white peach and raspberry, a combination not found anywhere else, and one that is both awakening and memorable. Part of the 11th generation of making fine spirits under the Nolet name, the company is a Nolet family heirloom and has been passed along from generation to generation, each one successively growing the popularity of the brand, all while maintaining the necessary ingredients of success that put them on the map to begin with. Try Nolet’s gin with this savory cocktail:


Music and a Meal

Prominent pianist Giovanni serenades weekenders at Romeo Cucina.

Giovanni has played across the globe, sold his music like hotcakes on QVC and now has finally arrived in Laguna, playing three shows a night each Friday and Saturday evening. Romeo Cucina, famous for its celebrated Italian eats, now has the live musical talents of Giovanni to make weekend nights even more special. The live mini-concerts set the mood for couples sharing a great dinner, transforming a night out into an intimate, romantic affair.

Giovanni is an accomplished and acclaimed piano virtuoso, composer and recording artist—having sold millions of discs since his beginnings in Italy, and has even been featured in his own PBS special with a second in the works. Now locals will have the chance to see and hear the romantic melodies and amazing performances live, all while dining on terrific Italian cuisine.

When not on tour, Giovanni performs every Friday and Saturday night at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. (249 Broadway St.; 949-497-6627; romeocucina.com)

Stella’s Serious is No Joke 

Italian chef Marco Mariselli wants guests to take Stella’s seriously—one authentic dish at a time.

“It has to be good for my guests for it to be good for me.”

The restaurant’s new chef, Marco Mariselli, wants his visitors to experience superb food, a great dining atmosphere and to enjoy his culinary mastery, a passion borne of his drive for preparing some of the best Italian food this side of his home country.

“I’m just so proud of what we do in the kitchen,” Marco says. “But everyone needs more than just food as a reason to go out and eat.”

And while the name would be misleading if fresh, seasonal and stellar cuisine weren’t the star of the show, Stella’s Serious Italian offers a decidedly “borough-influenced” experience. Live music on a near-nightly basis, courtesy of the talented Brooklyn saxophonist Gary King, sets the mood for a memorable evening, and guests can enjoy a refreshing Negroni or glass of Chianti along the handsome, NY-inspired bar.

Whether the food and ambiance takes diners to New York, Italy or just to their happy place for a couple hours, chef Marco is doing his best to live up to restaurant’s namesake.

“We’re very dedicated, passionate people here—and once people come here, they almost always come back,” he comments. (17 Monarch Bay Plaza, Dana Point; 949-234-1679; stellasitalian.com)

Fresh Changes to a French Landmark
New changes to the classic Coast Highway restaurant include a new general manager, a new executive chef and al fresco rooftop dining.

New changes to the classic Coast Highway restaurant include a new general manager, a new executive chef and al fresco rooftop dining.

French 75 has a new GM and a new executive chef, which should automatically mean that sweeping changes will rule the future of the romantic French chateau—but in actuality, subtle changes will carry the day.

“We won’t be changing very much,” new GM Pascal Gimenez explains. “We just built a new rooftop upstairs at the beginning of September; it’s a very nice place to eat and enjoy the outside.”

The new open-air dining section is indeed the biggest and most welcome change, with comfortable chairs and tables arranged so that diners can take in while they enjoy one of the restaurant’s namesake cocktails and some great French fare.

Executive Chef Gregory Moro, formerly of Tradition by Pascal in Newport, takes over the wheel at French 75. While Pascal hints that there may be some new ideas slowly simmering on the back burner, they wouldn’t be overwhelming or immediate, as he knows what his loyal diners enjoy the most.

“We want to continue to position ourselves as an elegant restaurant in Orange County—a place for original, organic ingredients with a good menu, good food and to become a great place to hang out,” he says. (1464 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-8444; french75.net)

 Laguna Shows its True Colors for Breaker Athletics

Guests of Katsuya who wear Laguna Beach High’s team colors will have 10 percent of their bill donated to the athletic boosters club.

Maroon and white can be a rewarding combo for supporters of Laguna Beach High School sports, as every check will have 10 percent of its total donated to Laguna Beach High School Athletics Boosters when diners wear the school’s colors on evenings when either JV or varsity football has a home game. A simple and tasty way to enjoy a good meal and support local athletics, it’s an offer that locals can easily stand up and cheer about.  (858 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-793-4030; sbe.com/katsuya)

A Savory Taste of the Sea

Bring a Mediterranean seafood treat to the table with this great recipe from Laguna’s own Tommy Bahama.

Tommy Bahama restaurant stands out from the ultra-competitive seafood scene of Laguna Beach with acclaimed entrées, such as this fresh salmon recipe.

Fresh Salmon
4, 6-ounce salmon pieces
2 tablespoons salt and pepper
10 ounces apple fennel slaw
12 ounces risotto
1 ounce unsalted butter
2 ounces shredded pecorino romano
6 ounces sweet pea sauce
8 ounces high-quality chicken stock
4 tablespoons sweet peas
4 sprigs of cilantro

Place lightly oiled salmon on a clean, pre-heated grill. Cook medium to make diamond marks on both sides of the fish. Once finished cooking, remove from grill and season with ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper on both sides, and brush with a little olive oil and let rest in a warm spot.
Using low to moderate heat, warm chicken stock, sweet pea sauce and risotto base together in a sauté pan. Gently cook the risotto until it looks creamy. Add the cheese and the risotto should tighten up a bit, then finish with the butter to add a nice shine. Hold in pan.

Risotto Base:
2 cups arborio rice
8 cups chicken stock
½ ounce olive oil
2 cloves of peeled and minced garlic
4 ounces diced yellow onion
1 ounce minced shallots

Add oil to a heated heavy-bottom saucepan. Add onions, shallots, garlic and rice. Sauté for two minutes. Add chicken stock a half cup at a time and cook until all liquid is gone.  Stir rice while adding in stock so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of pan. Rice should almost be cooked when finished with the stock. Spread out risotto on baking pan lined with wax paper and cool until ready to serve.

Place cooked risotto on the plate, then add cooked fish and top with the apple fennel slaw and garnish with the cilantro sprig.

Courtesy of Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach Bar & Grill (400 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-6886; tommybahama.com).

A Flavorful Start

Try this tasty gazpacho starter from Stonehill Tavern.

One of Michael Mina’s acclaimed restaurants, Stonehill Tavern at The St. Regis Monarch Beach offers up tavern fare with seasonal ingredients and contemporary twists. Here, Executive Chef Craig Polignano shares a recipe for a flavorful gazpacho starter.

Roasted Yellow Tomato Gazpacho
8 yellow tomatoes, halved, core removed
2 white onions, chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic
½ jalapeno, seeded
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper

In a large mixing bowl, mix the tomatoes, white onions, garlic, jalapenos, red chili flakes and some salt. Toss it to completely mix and season with salt. Pour about ½ cup of the olive oil in the bowl and continue to mix. Put tomatoes in a pan and roast at 400 F, stirring about every 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the onions have some color. Using a blender, puree the soup while gradually adding the rest of the olive oil and season to taste with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Cool the soup and taste again, as it will need more salt as it cools. Serve with chopped red onion, peppers and cucumber cut in very small cubes.

Recipe courtesy of Stonehill Tavern and Executive Chef Craig Polignano (One Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point; 800-722-1543; stregismb.com).

Go Wild

Starfish Laguna shares a tasty recipe for wild mushroom garlic noodles.

Starfish Laguna’s “AmerAsian” cuisine includes “delightfully unpredictable” cuisine, such as this signature recipe featuring wild mushrooms and egg noodles.

Wild Mushroom Garlic Noodles
Yield: Two servings

8 ounces thin egg noodle, aka wonton noodle
1 ounce enoki mushroom
1 ounce shiitake mushroom
1 ounce king mushroom
1 ounce shimeji (beech mushroom)
2 ounce bean sprouts
1 ounce Thai basil (leaves only)
3 stalks green onion (white part only; mince green part for garnish)
2 ounce vine ripe tomato
1 ounce pea sprouts (garnish)
2 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1.5 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorn (ground)
Sesame oil to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Blanch egg noodle in boiling water until al dente. Remove from boiling water into an ice bath once the noodles reach al dente. Strain the noodles from the ice bath and add the olive oil to keep noodles from sticking together. Set aside.
2. In a wok or sautee pan, heat the pan up with butter. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
3. Continue by adding the mushroom mix and tomato. Cook until ingredients are hot.
4. Add bean sprouts, Thai basil, egg noodle and continue to cook until ingredients are hot.
5. Add the rest of the seasoning: oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and black pepper and stir constantly. Once the seasoning is incorporated into the ingredients, remove from heat and serve on a plate.
6. Garnish with minced green onions and pea sprouts.

Courtesy of Starfish Laguna and chef Jarvis Yuan (30832 S, Pacific Coast Hwy.; 949-715-9200; starfishlaguna.com). 

Fresh Take on Salad

Enjoy a singular salad sensation, courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel and Chef Andres Jimenez.

The Ritz-Carlton is known for having top chefs and celebrated cuisine. The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is no exception, with innovative restaurants such as Raya, a restaurant concept by acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval. For a taste of the Ritz at home, try this pomegranate and bulgur wheat salad from Executive Chef Andres Jimenez.

Pomegranate and Bulgur Salad
2 cups bulgur wheat
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 stalks celery, cut in small ½ inch pieces
½ bunch Italian parsley (just the leaves)
3 cups pomegranate seeds (6 medium pomegranates)
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup olive oil
½ cup toasted walnuts
3 avocados, cut in cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Bibb lettuce (optional)

1. Cook bulgur with the chicken stock using a heavy bottom pot.
2. Once cooked, cool down and add garlic.
3. Mix remaining ingredients except walnuts and avocado. Season to taste.
4. Let salad sit in the refrigerator for at least six hours.
5. Toss in the walnuts and avocado just before serving. Add more seasoning if necessary.

Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel and Executive Chef Andres Jimenez (One Ritz-Carlton Dr., Dana Point; 949-240-2000; ritzcarlton.com). LBM


BJ’s Pizza and Grill
280 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-3802; bjsrestaurants.com

328 Glenneyre St.; broadwaybyamarsantana.com

The Cliff Restaurant
577 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-1956;  thecliffrestaurant.com

The Cottage Restaurant
308 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-3023; thecottagerestaurant.com

Hennessey’s Tavern
213 Ocean Ave.; 949-494-2743

384 Forest Ave.; 949-715-3900; lblumberyard.com

Royal Hawaiian
331 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-8001; royalhawaiianlaguna.net

Ruby’s Diner
30622 Coast Hwy.; 949-497-7829; rubys.com

Splashes Restaurant and Bar
1555 S. Coast Hwy. at Surf & Sand Resort; 949-497-4477; surfandsandresort.com

Stonehill tavern
One Monarch Beach Resort; 949-234-3200; surfandsandresort.com

Tommy Bahama Bar & Grill
400 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-6886; tommybahama.com

Tivoli Terrace
650 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949-494-9650; tivoliterrace.com

Tivoli Too!
650 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949-494-6044; tivoli-too.com


Brussels Bistro
222 Forest Ave.; 949-376-7955; brusselsbistro.com

California Contemporary

230 Forest Avenue
230 Forest Ave.; 949-494-2545; 230forestavenue.com

Café Anastasia
460 Ocean Ave.; 949-497-8903

Blue Laguna
696 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-2583; bluelagunaoc.com

Cafe Zoolu
860 Glenneyre St.; 949-494-6825; cafezoolu.com

K’ya Bistro Bar & The Rooftop Lounge
1287 S. Coast Hwy. at Hotel La Casa del Camino; 949-376-9718; kyabistro.com; rooftoplagunabeach.com

The Loft
30801 S. Coast Hwy. at Montage Laguna Beach; 949-715-6420; montagelagunabeach.com

Madison Square & Garden Cafe
320 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-0137; madisonsquare.com

Mosaic Bar and Grille at Montage Laguna Beach
30801 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-6420; montagelagunabeach.com

Nirvana Grille
303-101 Broadway; 949-497-0027; nirvanagrille.com

Sundried Tomato
361 Forest Ave.; 949-494-3312; thesundriedtomatocafe.com

Tabu Grill
2892 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-7743; tabugrill.com

The Terrace
425 S. Coast Hwy. at the Hotel Laguna; 949-494-1151; hotellaguna.com

The White House Restaurant & Nightclub
340 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-8088; whitehouserestaurant.com

Watermarc Restaurant
448 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-6272; watermarcrestaurant.com


Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen
31732 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-499-6311; evascaribbeankitchen.com


Mandarin King
1223 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-8992


Dizz’s As Is
2794 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-5250; dizzsasis.com


C’est La Vie
373 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-5100; cestlavierestaurant.com

French 75
1464 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-8444; french75.net

Studio at Montage Laguna Beach
30801 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-6420; studiolagunabeach.com

Global Cuisine

1 Ritz-Carlton Dr.; 949-240-2000

Sapphire Laguna Restaurant & Pantry
1200 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-9888; sapphirelaguna.com

Italian & Pizza

Cucina Alessa
234 Forest Ave.; 949-497-8222

Gina’s Pizza
610 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-4421; 1100 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-4342; ginaspizza.com

Pizza Lounge
397 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-2277; pizzalounges.com

Polina’s Salerno Italian Restaurant
220 Beach St.; 949-497-2600

Ristorante Rumari
1826 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-0400; rumari.net

Romeo Cucina
249 Broadway; 949-497-6627; romeocucina.com

Ti Amo Ristorante
31727 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-499-5350; tiamolagunabeach.com

Z Pizza
30902 Coast Hwy.; 949-499-4949; zpizza.com


610 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-5051; picayorestaurant.com

GG’s Café-Bistro
540-108 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-9306; ggscafebistro.com

Ocean Avenue Brewing Company
237 Ocean Ave.; 949-497-3381; oceanbrewing.com

Zeytoon Cafe
412 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-9230; zeytooncafe.com


480 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-5533; asadalaguna.com

Avila’s El Ranchito
1305 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-7040; avilaselranchito.com

Coyote Grill
31621 Coast Hwy.; 949-499-4033; coyotegrill.tv

Laguna Feast
801 Glenneyre St.; 949-494-0642

La Sirena Grill
347 Mermaid St.; 949-497-8226; 30862 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-499-2301; lasirenagrill.com

Las Brisas
361 Cliff Dr.; 949-497-5434; lasbrisaslagunabeach.com

1100 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-4148; olamendis.com

Taco Loco
640-1B S. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-1635;tacoloco.net


The Beach House
619 Sleepy Hollow Lane; 949-494-9707; thebeachhouse.com

Claes Restaurant
425 S. Coast Hwy. at Hotel Laguna; 949-376-9283; claesrestaurant.com

House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer
540-200 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-4500; houseofbigfish.com

30832 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-9200; starfishlaguna.com


Mozambique Steakhouse & Coastal Lounge
1740 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-7100; mozambiqueoc.com

Rock’n Fish
422 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-487-3113; rocknfishlb.com

30832 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-9200; starfishlaguna.com


Laguna Culinary Arts
845 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949-494-4006; lagunaculinaryarts.com


242 Café Fusion Sushi
242 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-2444; fusionart.us

Hapi Sushi
250 Beach St.; 949-494-9109; hapisushi.com

858 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-793-4030; sbe.com/katsuya

O fine japanese cuisine
30872 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-5551; ofinejapanesecuisine.com

San Shi Go
1100-303 S. Coast Hwy. (upper level); 949-494-1551


Laguna Thai by the Sea
31715 Coast Hwy.; 949-415-0924; lagunathai.com

Royal Thai Cuisine
1750 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-8424; royalthaicuisine.com

Thai Bros.
238 Laguna Ave.; 949-376-9979; thaibroslaguna.com


Zinc Cafe
350 Ocean Ave.; 949-494-6302; zinccafe.com

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