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Mozza has been to force of nature in L.A., so it seemed inevitable that partners Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton would eventually expand their Italian efforts. Their first SoCal branch is in Newport Beach, right on Pacific Coast Highway. The space features a coat of Mozza’s signature rusty yellow paint, a small vine-lined patio with dark brick-work, and a dining room with wood floor and high ceiling. At its core, this is a pizzeria, and they have the tile-framed oven to prove it. The oven feasts on walnut and delivers pizzas that are bread-like and pliable, with blistered edges. Of course toppings are top-flight, whether it’s cheese, protein or produce. Antipasti are also a big part of Pizzeria Mozza’s menu, with fantastic wood-roasted vegetables that shift seasonally, along with thoughtful takes on meatballs and chicken wings. Considering Nancy Silverton and pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez are involved, by all means save room for dessert.
MUST ORDER: Broccoli di Cicco, Delicata Squash, Meatballs al Forno, Chicken Wings, Funghi Misti Pizza, Butterscotch Budino, Caramel Copetta
Chase Bray and the rest of the PorroVita crew encourage customers to “get loose” with juice at their surfer-friendly spot, which dates to 2012 and sits a short walk from crashing waves. The space combines glass, wood and concrete to get effect. You’ll also encounter, a blackboard menu, art-lined walls, and copies of BL!SSS Magazine and Ghetto Juice scattered on wood tables, and the whirr of blenders as background noise. PorroVita also sells smoothies and acai bowls, but it’s mainly about the juice, which weigh 16-32 ounces and cost $6-10, which is a good value in this cold-pressed world. Choose from their prescribed juices, which carry names like Lipstick or Luv Ur Liver, or cobble together your own fruit and vegetable concoctions.
MUST ORDER: Lipstick, Luv Ur Liver, Green E-Lemonator
This neighborhood spot on Balboa Peninsula from Matt Meddock, Max Schlutz and Beckham Thomas features reclaimed wood, Astroturf and Tetris-like walls, drop down Edison bulbs, and surf videos playing on screen. One motto is “Sun’s Out, Buns Out,” so of course sandwiches dominate. They take a global view of the flavor spectrum, and keep comfort as a central tenet, no matter the influence. 12-inch hot dogs get the deluxe treatment, and breakfast sandwiches get a lot of love as well. Throughout the day, they brew Kean Coffee and make espresso drinks using a La Marzocco machine.
MUST ORDER: Mad Dog, Wake & Bake, Kean Coffee
12. SOL Cocina
Dock & Dine at this waterfront Baja-style restaurant from Deborah Schneider, who’s already expanded to Scottsdale and is destined for L.A. County. The space features marina views, brown cushioned booths, candelabra chandeliers, birdcage wall sconces, a bustling bar with high-top tables, and open kitchen with handsome copper hood. Schneider found inspiration on surf trips to Baja, including “wood-grilled tacos and fresh seafood cocktels and ceviches at tiny roadside stands.” She’s working to evoke the same low-key feeling in higher end Newport Beach with a menu that is by no means limited to tacos and ceviche.
MUST ORDER: Taco Vampiro, Coconut Calamari, Nachos Dulce
Thank you to Visit Newport Beach and the Balboa Bay Resort for supporting my culinary explorations in Newport Beach.
November 20, 2014 at 4:13 PM
Had no idea that Diedrich’s resurfaced — will keep an eye out for Kean’s next time I go the Newport way.
November 20, 2014 at 4:48 PM
H.C., the Diedrichs now own Kean Coffee, a separate brand with only two branches.