The Gossiping Gourmet: Hot off the grill: fine food and dessert

March 23, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • A hamburger and salad is served at Maro Wood Grill in Laguna Beach.
A hamburger and salad is served at Maro Wood Grill in Laguna… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

If they gave out an Academy Award for "most congenial hospitality in a food service establishment," hands down, the Oscar would go to Maro Wood Grill.

The dramatic makeover of the former site of A La Carte in Laguna Beach has turned the little deli into a gorgeous, fashionable, hip, new boite. Walking up to the open patio, you are immediately drawn in by the flaming light of the outdoor fire pit and then greeted with a welcome normally reserved for royalty or celebrities by Fiore Molteni, Maro's sister.

The restaurant is tiny, with only 10 seats on the heated patio and seven high-backed counter seats inside. Take your choice of schmoozing with the equally charming Maro as he mans the wood grill or enjoying your meal alfresco. While Maro is at the grill, Chef Debra Sims reigns in the kitchen.

The Molteni family is originally from Buenos Aires and the menu reflects a bit of that heritage with their signature empanadas, grilled skirt steak, spit roasted chicken and Argentinean pizza.


Their "Choices Menu" is served at lunchtime and on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. And on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, there is a prix fixe menu with a four-course set dinner with two seatings, one at 6 p.m. and one at 8 p.m. Thursday is chef's choice, Friday is fish and seafood and Saturday is meat. Menus change daily and you can access them on Facebook /notes or call them to see what is available. They deliver a chicken dinner for four but require two hours notice. Other items may be available. (Maro's is a work in progress. Keep posted on Facebook.)

Seated outside next to the fire pit on a chilly night we found ourselves so comfortably warm that we removed our coats. As we were looking at the evening's menu, we overheard a gentleman on his way out say to his companion, "That was the best meal I've ever eaten." That certainly got our attention!

Our Thursday night dinner began with an amuse bouche of a single wood-roasted oyster served in the shell, bathed in champagne. A hint of smokiness from the grill and a bit of chive blending with the briny juices, was in a word, sublime!

We also loved the cauliflower soup that followed. Its lush smooth texture was achieved without any cream at all. The richly flavored puree was enlivened with leeks, fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil…not only delicious but healthy too. The accompanying "bread stick" was better left uneaten, as it was neither crispy nor tasty.

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