Story By: Madeleine Caraluzzi
Steph Koko, a junior business administration major, just got out a grueling four hour class called ‘Business Analytics’. She’s tired, grumpy, and, to complete the trifecta, hungry.
“There’s something about staring at a spreadsheet full of jumbled numbers that’ll make you ravenous." Koko said. "Unfortunately, the only things I can cook well are chicken and eggs. Not the most hearty.”
Luckily, Koko knows only one way to bounce back from the mind numbing nature of Excel, eat some Italian food; margherita pizza, il formaggio (cheese), focaccia bread, lasagna, spaghetti, rigatoni, i frutti di mare (seafood, literally translated to fruit of the sea), risotto… the list quite literally could go on forever.
For those of us not versed in the art of cooking, eating out is habitual and choosing where to eat sometimes feels like the mental equivalent to choosing a spouse.
So, if you’re looking for a good authentic Italian(-American) meal, here’s a compiled list of the tastiest restaurants around Chapman to cater to your, and Koko's, growling tummies.
Marinara meter is on a scale from 1-10: 10 being tomato sauce straight out of the 900 population town of Atrani, Italy and 1 being red paint.
Francoli – 100 S Glassell St. Orange, CA 92866
Marinara meter: 7
On the corner of S Glassell in the Circle, we have Francoli.
A swanky establishment, the dress code is casual-elegant. The restaurant is compact, noisy depending on when you go, and always filled with the smell of cooking garlic and buzzing conversation.
For dinner, the many pasta dishes are most popular. They’ve got a variety of different dishes from many of Italy’s regions. If you’re a seafood lover, the penne al salmone is light and fresh, and a customer favorite. For meat eaters, you can’t go wrong with their traditional spaghetti and meatballs or the cannelloni di magro.
“I did the cliché Francoli-anniversary dinner with my boyfriend of four years here, and the atmosphere really made it feel like our first date. That’s cheesy, I know, but they have a great wine list, and really, really great pasta.”
Francoli has the classics like homemade tiramisu and panna cotta, but they also have traditional Italian desserts like cassata Siciliana, a pink and green marzipan covered sponge cake soaked in fruit juices and layered with ricotta cheese, candied fruits, and an either chocolate or vanilla filling similar to cannoli cream.
Francoli is a great restaurant to take someone on a date or just your parents when they come visit. Either way, this is an upscale restaurant. I’m sure you will ooze collegiate expertise when suggesting it to the group.
Café Lucca – 106 N Glassell St. Orange, CA 92866
Marinara meter: 5
On the other side of the circle is Café Lucca.
The interior décor strives to be Tuscan-esque. It’s actually more like Southern California than Tuscany, but it’s comfortable. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the staff is incredibly kind which is always a plus.
A favorite is the manicotti: layers of noodles, cheese, tomato sauce, cheese, pasta noodles, and cheese. Truly comfort food.
There’s a gelato counter that detracts from the full sit-down restaurant experience, but, the gelato is bomb. They’re more than happy to let you taste as many as necessary before choosing one, and choosing is fun with interesting flavors like: Capn’ Crunch, churro, and blueberry, to name a few.
Conca D’Oro – 776 N Tustin St. Orange, California
Marinara meter: 6
Located on Tustin, this restaurant is small, dark, and reminiscent of your grandma’s house. It’s truly a family affair; the restaurant was opened in 1960 by the family who still owns it, and most of the dishes are family recipes.
Although the service is pretty slow, the portions are large and delicious, so it’s not too upsetting.
To start, they give you delicious grilled bread, slathered with garlic and olive oil, right when you sit down. If that doesn’t make you want to stay, try the calamari (pro-tip: always put a good amount of lemon on your calamari). They’re light and fluffy, and the red sauce that comes with it is perfectly chilled.
For your entrée, recommended dishes are the pepperoni and sausage pizza, eggplant parmigiana, and linguini puttanesca. The portions are big and can be shared, but the leftovers taste just as good the next day.
If you’re looking for a relaxed, slow dinner, Conca D’Oro is the perfect restaurant for you.
Mascarpone’s – 1448 E Katella Ave. Orange, CA 92867
Marinara meter: 6.5
For great old-school Italian, look no further; Mascarpone’s has got your stomach.
Often a little packed (I suggest making a reservation), the restaurant has intimate low lighting and walls lined with antique plates and vintage Italian photographs and posters. There are always large families enjoying a meal together, as well as first- and one hundredth- time daters.
“It's incredible, they make all their own sauces and the atmosphere is both romantic and homey,” said sophomore Creative Producing major Abbey Hirsh, “I love the chicken piccata, but you can't go wrong with anything that has Mascarpone’s signature white sauce.”
Highly recommended dishes are the mozzarella en carozza (it’s kind of like a pizza sandwich, fettucini pesto, penne al espagnola, and the meat lasagna.
The cheesecake menu is a trademark of the restaurant. With over 35 different flavors available,
Choosing, can be difficult. It even says on the menu if you don’t see a flavor you like, they’ll create a special for you. Cheesecake favorites are plain, chocolate, and pineapple coconut.
Mascarpone’s is an entertaining experience, and you definitely won’t leave hungry.
Claro’s Italian Market – 1095 E Main St. Tustin, CA 92780
Marinara meter: 10 (they import sauces from Italy!)
This one’s not technically a restaurant but worth a visit for any food lover, especially if you enjoy cooking.
If the smell of garlic and cheese are this heavenly when you first walk in, you know you’ve found a good market.
“It’s really hard to find good Italian products on the West Coast, but Claro’s has really great fresh foods that you can’t get at any grocery store,” said junior screen writing major Nick Viscounty.
It’s about a fifteen minute drive from campus, but if you’re wanting to prepare an authentic Italian meal, they’ve got everything you need. From imported vinegars, canned goods, wines, olive oil, pasta noodles, pickles, breads, sauces, olives; plus, a *stacked* deli of Italian meats and cheeses, and two huge cases of mouth-watering pastries. I’m getting hungry just writing about this place.
If you’re not looking to cook, they’ve also got a variety of prepared foods, custom take-out sandwiches, and frozen meals.
Marinara Tomato Sauce
YIELD: approx 2 qts.
AMOUNT: UNIT: INGREDIENT:
2 Tbl. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Red Onion finely chopped
1 Tbl. Garlic – finely chopped
2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1 each Bay Leaf
2 tsp. Dried Oregano
2 tsp.. Dried Basil
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2 cans Italian Plum Tomatoes – look for a designation of San Marzano Tomatoes on
the can – either chopped in the can or put through a food mill
Shrimp Scampi appetizer
Serves four people.
AMOUNT: UNIT: INGREDIENT:
1 lb. Shrimp. Medium sized, shelled and deveined.
6 Tbl. Butter
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
2 Tbl. Shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp. Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Pepper
2-3 Tbl. Parsley