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The Gossiping Gourmet: Still 'As Is' after 30+ years

July 23, 2013|By Terry Markowitz | This post has been corrected, as noted below.
  • Hearty shellfish is mixed in to the thick-sauced Cioppino at Dizz's As Is in Laguna Beach.
Hearty shellfish is mixed in to the thick-sauced Cioppino… (Don Leach )

Dizz's As Is has been around since 1977, and that kind of longevity for a restaurant indicates it has been doing something very right, for a very long time.

Upon entering this cottage-like building, you feel as if you have been transported into the past. The atmosphere, the décor, the menu, even the dishware, hearkens back to another era. The walls are pink with black beams. The windows, looking out on Coast Highway and the ocean, have heavy flowered drapery. Tablecloths, too, have floral patterns, all reminiscent of another time. Black and white photos of old Hollywood movie stars and Art Deco flamingo prints in mirrored frames decorate the walls, and there is actual carpeting on the floor. Ceiling fans whirl softly overhead. Plates and cutlery are completely (and intentionally) mismatched.

Somehow, it all works together to create a homey and comfortable atmosphere. There is also a bar area in the front where people gather to eat and drink. In the warmer months, you can dine on the large outdoor patio.

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The menu follows suit with selections that easily predate the era of Julia Child. The actual menu consists of many sheets of pink plastic-covered paper, each one describing a single entree. All of these are complete dinners, which include: a small aperitif of vermouth with a twist, then the house pate with sourdough toast, followed by your choice of salad or the daily soup. The entrées range from filet mignon, rack of lamb and veal piccata, to fish, chicken and jumbo prawns. They also offer a small-plate menu with lesser-sized portions of some of the entrees.

Most everything we ordered was tasty. No frills, no foams, no foie gras, just old-fashioned good food. The pate and the vermouth made a lovely beginning. We chose the Caesar salad, and a small plate of romaine arrived topped with a few croutons and some Parmesan but no visible dressing. Our very sweet waiter noticed and returned quickly with a little crock of dressing and some crusty sourdough bread. The salad was the least interesting thing we ate.

Much better was the cioppino. Clams, giant mussels, a small lobster tail, shrimp and some wonderful, fresh and tender white fish chunks, swam in a subtly spicy, thick tomato sauce seasoned with garlic and herbs. It was served in a Le Creuset crock and came with a side of plain pasta. There was so much sauce that we tossed it in the spaghetti and took it home for another meal. All the entrees seem to come in huge portions.

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