Given that it's a seashell's throw from Newport Beach Pier, it's not surprising that Sol Grill is decorated with surfboards hung on bright red and yellow walls. But when the glint from the crystal chandeliers and antique glass bottles catches your eye, you realize there's something charmingly disjointed about this place.
It's a theme reflected in the menu, where guests find foods presented in unexpected ways. For instance, meals start with filet mignon prepared as an appetizer of hand-rolled meatballs in portobello gravy. Instead of clams, the chowder is studded with grilled Hawaiian ahi tuna, and a fettuccine dish surprises with swordfish and capers. Of course, there are some classic preparations as well, including rack of lamb charred over open flame, as fire encased in a steel box continues to be incapable of cooking anything.
As a teenager in the farm village of Calabria, Italy, Domenico Maurici helped his family grow farro, a rare grain. After graduating from Italy's Culinary Institute, Domenico went on a cruise of the Pacific Coast and fell in love with Orange County; he selected it as the place where he would open his own restaurant centered on the grain he had grown up with.
At Il Farro, Domenico transforms farro into pastas and risottos, which he uses to build specialty dishes such as the farrotto con salsiccia with Italian-style sausage and pecorino cheese. The menu also includes pizzas layered with prosciutto. There are also seafood creations such as linguini pescatore with New Zealand mussels, manila clams, calamari, and king crab.
Though it has no legal bearing in the U.S., the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 is gospel at Newport Beach Brewing Company. It stipulates that only three ingredients should be found in beer: barley, hops, and water. Brewer Derek Bougie sticks to this 16th century decree when creating all of Newport Beach's beers, which include hefeweizens, pale ales, and the comically named Evil Monkey and Village Idiot. And the Bavarian approach pays off: since 1995 Newport Beach Brewing Co beers have earned the brewery two bronze medals, two silver medals, and one gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival.
While Derek sticks to tradition, Newport Beach's head chef, Gabriel Beltran, prefers putting an contemporary spin on classic bar food. Made entirely in-house, his cuisine ranges from bourbon stout salmon, 1/2 lb. Harris ranch raised burgers, and fish and chips to brick-fired, garlic-crusted pizza topped with macaroni and cheese. His innovation even extends to desserts such as calzone filled with white and dark chocolate. Beer-fueled feasts unfold in front of Newport's HD televisions and 101-inch flat-screens, which stay tuned to the latest sports and weather reports from neighboring planets. Patrons may also visit the beer garden and patio located near the beach and the bay on Balboa Peninsula.
After spending 38 years cooking for her husband and seven children in New York, Mama D decided to move to California. She packed her grandmother's recipes, arrived on the West Coast, and opened a traditional Italian eatery. Nowadays, Mama D, Papa D, and their children take turns supervising the eatery's kitchen, where chefs roll signature homemade raviolis and fill them with chicken, sautéed spinach, or lobster and crab. Using dough made with filtered water, they knead Mama D's Neapolitan pizzas and top them with homemade sauce and freshly grated parmesan. Most of the restaurant's dishes are named after their inventors. Names such as Julianna's homemade meatball, Gary's veal parmigiana, Jr.'s chicken limone, and Cheryl's steamed clams contribute to Mama D's family atmosphere and make it easier for Julianna, Gary, and Cheryl to remember their favorite dishes.
The door to Mama D's rests beneath a green awning and opens to a casual eatery with tables veiled in red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Passing through the interior, diners arrive at an outdoor seating area decked out with a fireplace and sun umbrellas.
Beckoning to diners with a casual elegance, Patril Bistro & Catering serves up a rotating menu of made-from-scratch fare. The bestselling braised short ribs dazzle diners with braised beef, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh veggies, and a drizzling of shiitake-mushroom glaze ($23). Mouth must-haves include the shrimp scampi ($18) and the Bianca pizza, a thin-crust creation drizzled in olive oil and topped with mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, sliced prosciutto, and arugula ($20 for a 13-inch). Or heat up chilly tooth caves with the warm spinach salad, a mix of sautéed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, and delightfully crumbled goat cheese, finished with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette ($14).
They say that practice makes perfect. Open since 1973, Gallo's Italian deli has had 40 years to perfect its Italian sub sandwiches. Each one starts with Gallo's fluffy bread, which is then topped with cheeses such as cheddar, swiss, jack, or provolone, and meats such as mortadella, capacolla, and pastrami. Customers can compile these deli cuts into custom sandwiches, or opt for one one of the house specialties like the Italian meatball sub, which is topped with Gallo's signature tomato sauce.