The culinary half of this delicious dichotomy is curated by award-winning head chef Christopher Gross, while the palate behind the fermented lounge is sommelier Paola Embry. Hungry peepers can feast upon Christopher's thoroughly modern dining digs; outfitted with bright, candy-colored fixtures that accent clean geometrics and foundational earth tones. Commence proper consumption by memorizing the full dining menu, which is creatively infused with the flavors of French cuisine, tempting early appetites with first plates such as wild-mushroom soup with foie gras ($18) and escargot en croute ($14), or savory salads such as duck confit with mixed greens, Humboldt Fog cheese, and cognac-infused dried cherries ($16). Warm up every nook and cranny of your mouth in preparation for great after-dinner conversation with a plate of steamed mussels with Spanish chorizo and white wine ($16), or take a large bite of smoked truffle-infused filet mignon ($36) to avoid answering questions about your "secret club" and the only other member, your "Matthew McConaughey." For an edible that's both cozy and elegant, opt for a wood-oven pizza topped with wild mushrooms, shallots, and arugula ($12).
For owners Sal and Dina Zappone, their eponymous Italian eatery is a dream come true. The newly renovated dining room is rife with modern accents such as earthen clay tiles, solar-powered silverware, and hanging lights like glowing red roses. It’s also a family establishment through and through. While Sal helms the kitchen, garnishing homemade pastas with fresh ricotta, and loading pizzas with fresh fennel sausage and truffle oil, his young son and daughter can often be found in small aprons, advertising their favorite dishes. Diners may also pair meals with an espresso or a light Morellino wine, which offers a fruity nose easier than sticking grapes in your nostrils.
Flavors from Oaxaca, Cuba, and Yucatan add depth to Fuego Tacos' menu of gourmet Mexican fare, including croquettes, seafood dishes, and the eponymous tacos. Tasty fillings such as Dr. Pepper–braised short ribs and tilapia encrusted with panko breadcrumbs can be stuffed into two tacos or one burrito at customers' discretion, and entrees of roast-pork sandwiches, seafood, and pasta blend Caribbean and South American culinary sensibilities on singular platters. From stools beneath a brick archway, diners select their meals, their eyes drinking in the chocolate-hued wooden counter that reflects the glow of orange pendant lights and patrons covered in phosphorescent body paint.
At Fuego Cityscape—Fuego Tacos sassy sister restaurant—guests dine alfresco, shaded from the sun by the cloth umbrellas that tower over the front patio. They clink glasses of blackberry mojitos and jalapeno-infused margaritas over plates of inventive dishes from a Mexican and southwest-inspired menu, such as chipotle cream pasta and green-chile beef sliders.
Early-rising chefs whisk together a breakfast lover's menu, served amid chicken-themed décor in the burgundy dining room or alfresco on the outdoor patio. A Meggsican three-egg omelet ($8.50) adds international flair to morning meals, and the fluffy casing and lobster-rich core of the laguna beach omelet ($9.25) scrumptiously awakens tongues from nightmares about pronouncing five-syllable words. Diners can satisfy doughy hankerings by noshing on six varieties of pancake ($5.50–$6.95) or the quadrilateral impressions of a belgian waffle crowned with berries and cream, cinnamon apples, or bananas and walnuts ($6.95). Lemon-infused ground sirloin, cracked pepper, and mozzarella top the house burger's exclusive ingredients list ($9.50), and a spread of sandwiches ($6.95–$8.95) trounce four city blocks of hunger when lined up end to end.