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The Gossiping Gourmet: Cooking up Italian cuisine runs in family

September 19, 2013|By Terry Markowitz
  • The baked Eggplant Involtini -- topped with fresh mozzarella cheese in a bed of marinara sauce, rolled and stuffed with ricotta cheese, parmigiano, spinach, and sun dried tomato -- at Rumari in Laguna Beach.
The baked Eggplant Involtini -- topped with fresh mozzarella… (Don Leach, HB Independent )

Ristorante Rumari is a family restaurant featuring Southern-style Italian cuisine. We haven't been back to this Laguna Beach eatery in six years, and were looking forward to revisiting it to see if the food was as good as we remembered — and to try some new dishes we hadn't had before.

The owners, Bina and Antonio Crivello, came to California in 1972 with their four sons, leaving behind their restaurant in Porticello, Italy. Mama Bina taught son Vincent and his brothers how to cook so she could stay at home and watch soap operas.

The brothers followed in their parents' footsteps and eventually opened restaurants of their own, including Vincent's Rumari in Laguna Beach. Their father, Poppa Antonio, is a baker who is responsible for making the wonderful foccacia bread each day. It's the kind you find in Italy, with a thin and crispy crust.

This restaurant is a favorite with the locals as well as tourists. Its location on Pacific Coast Highway, away from the center of town, means you can find parking and avoid the crowds. There is a small parking lot behind the restaurant as well.

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Rumari's has a patio in front, hidden partially from the highway by plants. It is a pleasant spot to dine in the warmer months. The interior has two rooms for dining, one with a large bar. The main dining area has two chandeliers hanging from the beamed ceiling and tables with white linens, but the atmosphere is pleasant and warm.

We perused the menu while munching on that good focaccia, which is served with a little plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We found the staff to be very efficient, and our waitress was particularly friendly and helpful. She described the daily specials in detail, and we chose the eggplant rollatini: thin slices of eggplant wrapped around a creamy ricotta cheese filling flecked with tiny bits of spinach.

The rolls had a coat of warm melted mozzarella cheese and were served with a wonderful chunky house-made tomato sauce with just a hint of sweetness. The portion, two rolls on a plate, was quite big and easily shared.

I had a large bowlful of whole, lightly sautéed mushrooms served with a wonderful mushroomy broth dotted with big cloves of roasted garlic. The broth was the highlight because the mushrooms themselves had no discernable flavor. I was glad to have the focaccia to soak up the excellent juices.

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