At Bistro K, traditional Italian recipes merge with eclectic New World flavors for a menu that's reflective of the international history of the family behind it. That story starts back in Italy with the four Bagatta brothers, all chefs who later traveled on to France, South Africa, and Southern California. It was during these wanderings that Tony Bagatta met Massimiliana, the woman who would become his wife. Today, Massimiliana and her daughter Katia run Bistro K as a mother-daughter team, serving up hearty plates from traditional Italian gnocchi to gourmet burgers smothered in gruyère.
At Romeo Cucina, the chef prepares fresh pastas daily, from gnocchi to stuffed ravioli and tortellini, alongside a menu of pizzas and other Italian specialties such as veal scaloppini and linguine with fresh clams and mussels. Both eateries also share a similar inviting décor, with white linen-covered tables along with Italian-inspired art on warm yellow or exposed brick walls.
Bearing the initials of the Big Apple, NYC Cafe & Catering keeps Southern California bellies full with its expansive spread of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The family-oriented establishment makes everything from scratch, from its marinara sauce to bread baked fresh every morning. Visitors bask in this freshness while feasting on specialty pastas, sandwiches, or pizzas, including a special New York pie loaded with pepperoni, sausage, and double cheese. They also offer a variety specialty gyros, where meat and pita come together in an effort to learn how to love again. Conveniently, the cafe caters to Orange County, meaning patrons don't have to stuff their cheeks with lasagna if they want to enjoy their meal at an alternate location.
Mario's By The Sea serves a menu of Italian specialties including more than 20 pasta options and a long list of entrees starring chicken, veal, seafood, and veggies. A combination of chilled melon cloaked in imported Italian prosciutto ($10) and a hot, crispy calamaretti fritti ($13) combines cool and warm fronts to prepare stomachs for a pasta downpour. The veal tortellini champagne pasta ($14–$19) employs a bubbly infused cream sauce to help diners celebrate recent purchases of full-sized yachts constructed carefully in bottles.
Peppino's menu of family-style portions provides more savory pairings than grandma could shake a slotted spoon at. Ease a land lover into the seafood sampler, composed of halibut, shrimp, scallops, and salmon atop a bed of angel-hair pasta infused with a garlic-basil tomato sauce and a splash of white wine ($21.95), or teach the young ones the true meaning of antipasto with a piled-high salad of salami, capicola, ham, mortadella, provolone, red onions, black olives, tomatoes, pepperoncini, kitchen sinks, roasted peppers, and mixed greens ($9.95).