Restaurateur Salvatore S. D'Abbusco was born in Naples, but traveled to the United States at the age of 24 to marry a woman from Philadelphia, with whom he'd fallen in love on a cruise. He wanted to bring the tastes of Italy to his new home and founded Salvatore Cucina Italiana more than 20 years ago.
His chefs toss pasta dishes made from traditional Italian recipes with italian cheeses, shellfish, chicken, and lamb. They handcraft tiramisu and blend, cut, and fold their own dough for manicotti. Sommeliers complement the extensive menu with an array of white and red wines from Tuscany, Sicily, and California, for a greater blend of international flavors than UN potluck parties. Each meal begins as servers lay complimentary bruschetta, in lieu of traditional bread, onto white-clothed tables arranged under ornate gilded lamps and pasta-covered walls.
Laguna Florist's arrangers heft more than two decades of experience crafting nature into art by assembling seasonal bouquets and meticulous custom arrangements. Each of the three freshly cut Christmas bouquets measures 12.5"x9.5" and is set in a square, red glass vase that can later be reused as a lantern to guide Rudolph back to homes in the off-season. Other floral arrangements ($20–$25 average) can be purchased as gifts or to brighten living spaces. Customers can collaborate with the shop's resident floral artists to invent imaginative custom arrangements from handpicked flowers. The shop's helpful staff is also happy to explain helpful plant-care tips used by the pros to increase rose longevity and to train venus flytraps to belch the alphabet.
The skilled chefs at Spike’s Fish House grill a rotating cast of 8–10 daily fish specials to fill salads, rice bowls, and other entree options. A freshly cooked fillet can play hide-and-seek with forks in a salad’s nest of field greens, cucumbers, and roma tomatoes or bounce on the bowl’s bed of white or brown rice to the consternation of babysitters who insist it’s time to sleep. Chefs drizzle each dish in homemade sauces such as lemon-pesto aioli or chimichurri to infuse a final spark of flavor.
Cannons Seafood Grill, perched atop a picturesque cliff overlooking the Dana Point Marina, has delighted diners since 1972 with its menu of fresh, savory seafood. Dive into meals such as the signature lobster bruschetta, a layer of melted blue cheese covering fresh tomato, tarragon bruschetta, and pieces of lobster clinging to one another atop a grilled-sourdough-bread dance floor ($12.95). The grilled swordfish steak Mediterranean brandishes red and yellow tomatoes, sweet red peppers, and artichoke hearts ($25.95), and the sizzling New York sirloin arrives tableside ready to be seared and sporting a rakish derby (29.95). A wide selection of cocktails, such as the Thin Mint, made with Absolut Vanilla, Bailey's Irish Cream, and DeKuper Green Crème de Menthe ($11.50), helps ease first-date jitters.
Seafood staples and baja barbecue standbys are awash with Pacific flavor on The Fish Bucket's sun-drenched menu. Take flight with a pound of island chicken wings, doused in a tangy szechuan-style sauce, bedazzled with sesame seeds, and served with ranch dressing and a black box to document the experience ($9). The california burger plants a cheddar-laden beef patty beneath a garden of avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and ranch dressing with a haystack of fresh-cut french fries ($9). Transpacific tastes are tempered with two baja-style tacos bursting with beer-battered cod, melty pepperjack, cabbage, and tartar sauce ($7). Sweetly cap off the meal by basking in the glow of the bonfire brownie, served warm with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and toasted marshmallows ($5), an ideal compliment to a spooky ghost story or pathologically sentimental sing-along.
Ana Maria Montoya Kishihara first landed on American soil in the early 1980s, bringing along her two young children, the traditional Peruvian recipes of her mother and grandmother, and a dream to start her own restaurant. She opened up Inka Grill in 1996, stocking its kitchen with fresh ingredients and setting up a wood-fired rotisserie to roast juicy Peruvian chicken dishes. Today, Ana’s daughter has taken over the family business, whipping up the authentic the Criolla recipes passed down from the three generations of women before her.
Amid the smoky rotisserie and bubbling pots of stew in the Inka Grill kitchen, chefs whip up fresh fish ceviches, savory steak stir-fry saltados, and flavorful seafood paellas. They pair heaping scoops of rice and beans with their rotisserie chicken, a poultry that reporters from Orange County Weekly lauded as “so juicy from tail to sternum you can barely tell the dark from the white.” Servers tote sizzling platters to the dining room, where vivid paintings of Peruvian children adorn the walls and a soft flute plays traditional Peruvian songs, i.e., Wham! covers. The staff pours glasses of the traditional chicha morada corn drink and presents cans of imported Inca Kola to quench the spice of their ultra-spicy green aji sauce, which the chefs have lightheartedly dubbed “Gringo Killer”.