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The Gossiping Gourmet: Chef delights again with new restaurant Mare

August 22, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz | By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Mare's Orange Sweet Pepper platter, stuffed with goat cheese, walnuts and micro basil.
Mare's Orange Sweet Pepper platter, stuffed with… (Don Leach, HB Independent )

Alessandro Pirozzi, of Cucina Alessa fame, has opened another restaurant in Laguna Beach, this time with the addition of a snazzy lounge area.

Mare Culinary Lounge is his fourth venture in the area. Every day he bounces up and down the coast from one venue to another with indefatigable energy and boundless Italian charm. He is also a wonderful chef with a passion for pasta. He says that he sleeps for only three or four hours and keeps a pad by his bed to jot down ideas for new dishes swirling around in his head.

Mare is in the Holiday Inn, a site that has seen many restaurants come and go. Alessandro and his wife have practically excavated the old space and transformed it into something quite lovely.

Dazzling blue lights emanate through a giant wooden wall panel in one of the dining areas and shimmer underneath the bar top as well. Beautiful elements of glass tile, intriguing fixtures and subtle shades of gray create a striking décor. A wall of French doors leads out to the pleasant patio framed by towering old palm trees.

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Alessandro has moved a bit beyond his Italian roots to create a few fusion dishes on this new menu.

Shared plates are appetizers in generous portions. Notable is a taco "Mai" way, made with Vietnamese steamed bread stuffed with oxtail stew, baby sweet onions and house-made saba (like a balsamic reduction). We also loved the stuffed peppadews. These South African peppers are marinated in a sweet brine then stuffed with goat cheese and candied walnuts — a mouthful of paradise.

Another palate pleaser is the Italian green olives, stuffed with fontina cheese, coated with breadcrumbs and then flash-fried. Alessandro's beef carpaccio is served with salty capers, a peppery arugula salad, large shavings of Parmesan and a drizzle of lemony olive oil. Manilla clams and fat juicy tiger shrimp are sautéed in a zesty lobster reduction sauce accented by Meyer lemon juice and Calabrian hot chili.

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