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.
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.