After 20 years as Antonello's award-winning chef, Franco Barone opened his own restaurant in 2009 with his wife, Donatella. Lots of good buzz finally brought us to Il Barone Ristorante, a pleasant bistro tucked away in the rear of a business and restaurant plaza in Newport Beach.
We liked the look, size and sound level in this warm contemporary space. The entry brings you into a small waiting area with a bar. We sat in the smaller of the two dining areas, a few steps up. Attractive black mesh curtains separate the rooms. Gray-silver walls and muted abstract paintings combined with warm low lighting and candles on white linen-draped tables create a relaxing ambience. Soft strains from classic Italian crooners fill the background with nostalgic sounds.
We are both big fans of octopus and arugula, so it was an obvious choice to select the polipo sedano e arugula. These thick, well-seasoned slices were grilled and served warm on a large bed of arugula, wilting the greens slightly. We couldn't find nor did we miss any sedano (celery), although we did find some small cubes of potatoes. The dressing was a simple lemon and olive oil mixture, and it all worked together to create a tasty mélange.