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Mangia! Pizza, Pasta and Other Italian Updates

Our culinary columnist carries on about Italian eats throughout the county.

The pizza Anne Marie gets when she can't decide what to eat at Brooklyn City Pizzeria & Market. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan, Culture OC


Whether it’s a bowl of pasta or slice of pizza, Italian dining is comforting and hearty; lately throughout Orange County there have been restaurant announcements, openings, as well as a few closures all associated with the same cuisine. Originally conceived as a pizza-focused column, this week’s commentary features the latest on all eats coming and going in the style of Italian cooking.

Now open: Sugo

Newport diners recognize Chef Sandro Nardone for his Bello brand off MacArthur Boulevard. Sugo, his sophomore project, debuted early February, offering pizzas by the slice to-go in Costa Mesa. With creative flavor profiles (the new Japanese pizza includes bonito flakes and Kewpie mayo miso sauce) adjacent to timeless Margherita pies and the ability to order whole pies or slices, Nardone may be on to something. Bonus: Typical closing time is 11 p.m. 675 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa; (714) 852-3580. 

Now open: Oliver’s Trattoria

A sister restaurant to Oliver’s Osteria, Oliver’s Trattoria is situated in the Quail Hill neighborhood of Irvine, serving dishes indicative of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and has been open since December of last year. The original Oliver’s is still humming in Laguna Beach, but now I don’t have to sit in Laguna Canyon traffic for tasty (two friends could not stop talking about it) cacio e pepe. 6511 Quail Hill, Irvine; (949) 418-8107.

Closure and Coming Soon: Brick/Finca

Chef David Pratt’s Brick: Woodfired Cuisine closed its doors for the last time in early March. A San Clemente Italian mainstay for 13 years, the silver lining is that Pratt already has another eatery lined up. Named Finca: Wood | Fire | Grill in nearby San Juan Capistrano, it’s found at the nearly completed River Street Marketplace. Finca grand opening news is expected closer to summer, but Pratt’s focus at Finca will be a burger concept with hyper-seasonal side dishes, not Italian eats. 31856 Paseo Adelanto, San Juan Capistrano.

PHOTO 1: Gibroni's pepperoni pizza. PHOTO 2: Gibroni's owner Tony Gioutsos. Photos courtesy of Memo Guerrero

Relocating: Gibroni’s

Also in San Clemente, Iva Lee’s closed in March and Gibroni’s (once a pop-up inside of JD’s bar down the street) plans to take over the newly vacant pad with a target opening of late April. Slinging Detroit-style pies, the square-sliced fare is what Lindsey and Tony Gioutsos Gibroni’s is known for – possessing a crust that maintains both chewy and crispy textures. Detroit slices became my new favorite pizza style in 2021. At the pop-up, I tried the Fun Guys pizza assembled with mushrooms, sausage, truffle oil, porcini cream sauce and Italian parsley. 555 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente; (949) 460-3572.

Focaccia Boi's Detroit-inspired pizza. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan, Culture OC

Searching for New Location: Focaccia Boi 

Pizzaiolo and overall upstanding guy Derek Bracho is currently seeking a kitchen to set up a permanent Focaccia Boi shop. His ideal ask is that the spot be in Anaheim or an adjacent city. Bracho’s original plans for expansion fell through; he was also offered a temporary spot in Santa Ana, but was ghosted. “We haven’t given up and we are still here waiting for the perfect spot since I’m picky and don’t want to regret anything,” Bracho said.

Currently, Focaccia Boi is supplying bread to Thank You Coffee (Anaheim), Daydream Surf Shop (Newport Beach), Colony Wine Merchant (Anaheim) and occasionally Windsor Brown’s in Anaheim. In the meantime, additional collaborations and pop-ups are in the works. Follow his Instagram for more updates.

Dishes from Trattoria Trullo: PHOTO 1: Broccoli pesto orecchiette. Photo courtesy of Jill Cook. PHOTO 2: Bombette (stuffed and rolled pork braciola). PHOTO 3: Tricolore focaccia sandwich. Photos 2 and 3 by Anne Marie Panoringan, Culture OC

Now Open: Trattoria Trullo

Chef Marco Criscuolo most recently helmed the kitchen at Pelican Hill’s Andrea Ristorante before going off on his own. By the time you read this, I would’ve finally made it out to Trattoria Trullo, his passion project in Aliso Viejo. “I’ve long dreamed of opening my own trattoria, a place where I can share the unique, delicious dishes of Puglia. Often, Americans’ first thoughts of Italian food are of dishes from the north,” he said. 26611 Aliso Creek Road, Suite C, Aliso Viejo; (949) 446-9715.

Hidden Gem: Brooklyn City Pizzeria and Market

Found in a hilly Crown Valley plaza, Brooklyn City Pizzeria opened last year and quickly became a neighborhood favorite in Laguna Niguel. With four-ish tables for dine-in use, this is more or less a hole in the wall. Brooklyn City is the kind of place where you can taste the love put into every pie. Begin with orders of fresh garlic knots and perfectly prepared meatballs while you wait for the main event. From classic three cheese to vodka with pancetta, there wasn’t a bad bite to be found. When in doubt, the pepperoni is always a winner. 30012 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel; (949) 363-7777.

Smoky vodka pizza from Truly Pizza. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan, Culture OC

Still Amazing: Truly Pizza

And then there’s my favorite – Truly Pizza that opened last summer in Dana Point. Truly easily makes some of the best pizzas I’ve ever had and serves them in a super relaxed setting. Before I get redundant, you can read how Truly made it into my five favorite new restaurants of 2023. And don’t hesitate to share a salad or not share a dessert – Truly definitely delivers as a whole concept. 24402 Del Prado, Dana Point; (949) 218-8220.

Expanding: Parlor, Wood Fire Kitchen and Cocktails

RJB Restaurant Group (Vine, Ironwood, Olea, Bloom, Sapphire, etc) is back in San Clemente with a forthcoming project that encompasses a Modern American pizza parlor. I’ve been a fan of Chef Jared Cook’s cuisine since Vine was his only restaurant and I was still with OC Weekly, so expect more intel in coming months besides this teaser: “We are going to have an awesome French rotisserie with Nate’s (Nate Overstreet formerly from Wheat and Sons butchery) porchetta, half chickens, suckling pig, sexy entree salads and some other small and large plates,” Cook said. For now, here is a link to Olea with bios on the management team.

New addition: Il Sole Italian Cucina Express

Owners Edgar Estrada and Chef Luis Mena are excited to introduce an express version of their Il Sole RSM (Rancho Santa Margarita) brand to the Kaleidoscope’s Union Market food hall in Mission Viejo. This Italian restaurant will offer a more casual dining experience. 

One of the menu highlights will be its homemade fig ravioli, a dish that has been a favorite among Il Sole Cucina patrons with a blend of decadent figs, goat cheese, and pasta. Il Sole Italian Cucina Express opened at the end of last month. 27741 Crown Valley Parkway, Mission Viejo. 

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