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Restaurant Review:

Italian favorite finds its way to H.B.

June 11, 2009|By John Reger

For nearly a year, I would tell anyone who would listen that Cucina Alessa was the best Italian food I have had in Newport Beach, if not Orange County.

Owner/chef Alessandro Pirozzi had created a gem on Pacific Coast Highway, just over the Huntington Beach border. The food was incredible, Pirozzi personable and the prices extremely reasonable.

There was a catch, however. While the restaurant was charming, the acoustics were horrible. Sound bounced off the wall like bullet ricochets and intruded on conversation at your table.

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So go there, I would say, it is worth it despite the noise and the crowds. It would be a perfect restaurant if not for that.

Then Pirozzi, who never ceases to amaze me with his energy, surprised me by opening a new location in Huntington Beach.

When the old Shorehouse Café closed down, Pirozzi jumped at the chance and scooped up the property, opening his second restaurant just over a month ago.

This one is perfect.

There are no crowds because the ample two-level dining areas can accommodate enough customers , at least for now.

The noise is gone because of the spaciousness of the rooms, and Pirozzi is even flirting with the idea of live mood music.

What has stayed the same is the food. Pirozzi has rented the apartment above the restaurant and is able to throw most of his time into establishing this location.

In this country eight years, Pirozzi graduated from the Culinary Academy in Italy and went to work for several restaurants in Orange County, working as a chef and manager.

Pirozzi is multitalented and multilingual, but when it comes to food, he has one goal: to make the freshest, most inventive dishes possible.

He also got an assist from his mother, who visited from his homeland of Naples, Italy. It was from her that Pirozzi learned his love of cooking, and she gave him some tips while spending three months here.

One of them was leaving the pizza dough out longer than he had to let it breathe and settle. Not that Pirozzi needed much advice, but when Mom talked, he listened.

His food remains true to his Italian roots.

On this night, I brought Mark and Diane, who went with me on our original visit to the Newport Beach location.

Pirozzi remembered them when he visited our table, something he enjoys doing. He will make the rounds to every table, whether he knows you or not, and converse briefly, leaving to let you enjoy the food before you.

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