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The Gossiping Gourmet: Delicious Alessa offers new location, fare

December 15, 2010|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Cucina Alessa on Forest Avenue serves Fragole with roasted golden beets, sliced strawberries, candied walnuts, goat cheese-mascarpone, baby arugula, strawberry red wine vinaigrette and strawberry powder.
Cucina Alessa on Forest Avenue serves Fragole with roasted… (KENT TREPTOW, HB…)

The amazing Alessandro Pirozzi has opened a new trattoria in Laguna Beach, Alessa, in the old Pomodoro space. You may have had the pleasure of dining in his Cucina Alessa in Newport or Huntington, but Laguna's version is unique. Although there are many old favorites, there are new and exciting additions as well; for instance, a proscuitto and mozzarella bar and specialty house-made fresh pastas. Gourmets will appreciate the crudo and the fragole while traditionalists will revel in Mama's meatballs and fettucine Bolognese.

The interior has been refreshed and somewhat Italianized with marble floors, a display of Pirozzi's family photographs and a large ceramic wall fountain on the patio. Pirozzi built the new wine rack above the bar himself. The transformation took place in five days, another testimony to his savvy and energy.

This restaurant has already generated a lot of buzz in Laguna Beach. Although they don't take reservations, you can call to place your name on the waiting list and they will tell you how long the wait is, so you can arrive accordingly. The staff, Italian or not, have all been thoroughly coached by Pirozzi in Italian charm. Every lady is addressed as "bella" and every gentleman "bello," and somehow it's quite seductive — like the food.

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They offer a sashimi-grade fish of the day for the crudo (Italian sashimi), which was our favorite — yellowtail, really dolled up. Pirozzi described the luscious sweet and tart pool of goodness beneath the fish as "limoncello jello." The two overdressed little pieces of fish wore slivers of shaved fennel, candied lemon zest and a green apple slice. Completing the outfit were sprinkles of fancy black pepper and Himalayan pink salt. The ensemble was delicious, but it's difficult to taste all the subtleties.

Another newbie is the fragole salad. Fragole is the beautiful Italian word for strawberry and here they are combined with yellow beets, arugula and candied pecans, then drizzled with a Sorrento lemon infused olive oil as well as a strawberry red wine vinaigrette. The plate was finished with house-made strawberry dust (a new one on us). The interesting and surprising mélange made for some exciting tastes.

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