Crystal Cove is home to many restaurants, and Settebello is one of the newer ones there. I’ve tried coming here several times ever since it opened almost a year ago. The first time I arrived at 11am with a friend, to find they do not open until noon. Another time, we get here and my friend isn’t in the mood for pizza.
The restaurant is rather stunning with an open ceiling and olive trees in the middle of the main dining room stretching out from the ground. The tables are set in a “natural environment” with an open ceiling, giving you the sense that you’re dining in an open air treehouse. In the evenings, the back wall acts as a backdrop for old movies played on a reel — silently of course.
The restaurant is the latest of many, from a group with roots in Nevada — there are locations in Henderson and Summerlin, Nevada — as well as two location in Utah, and three in California. The original Henderson location was recently accredited by the Italian government.
I am quite enjoying the Italian pop music streaming throughout the restaurant. Suddenly, I detect my favorite Italian crooner’s voice and ask our server if he knows the name of the track. He graciously went in search of it and returns with the name on a post-it. What wonderful service!
We start with Panzanella ($11) a classic Italian bread salad, here, utilizing house-made bread and tomatoes. Red onions, shaved fennel and cucumber add crunch and freshness. The arugula gives a hint of bitterness, which works in sync with the other ingredients. I love the subtlety of the red wine vinaigrette and the textural contrast the prosciutto crips provide.
Traditionally, involtini are little bundles of thinly sliced meat rolled with a filling of cheese and/or other ingredients. Settebello’s Involtini ($11) is a play on salad with baby arugula rolled into slices of prosciutto and presented with goat cheese. The shaved parmiagiano, balsamic reduction, and olive oil brings everything together harmoniously.
I’m a huge fan of Spanish-style boquerones so it isn’t surprising that Anchiove Crostini ($12) catches my eye. The crostini is smeared with only a hint of spicy goat cheese — barely detectable — with roasted cherry tomatoes, shaved fennel on top of the marinated white anchovies and several shards of orange zest. The fried capers are an ingenious addition enhancing both flavor and texture.
Since the restaurant’s moniker includes the word “pizzeria”, it is only befitting we try a handful of the selections. Settebello’s pizza oven is hotter than the others I’ve encountered reading 1000 degrees (most hover around 900). The pizzas requires only one and a half to three minutes before they’re ready.
The classic Margherita ($14) comprises crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, parmigiano, basil and olive oil — simple and fresh. Like all good traditional Neapolitan pizzas, the center is wet, but not too much so. They’re happy to oblige if you want your pizza a little more “well done”.
My favorite pizza is Vico ($15) topped with sausage, roasted fennel, red onions, mascarpone, mozzarella, basil and olio. I’m not surprised at all since I tend to prefer pizzas without the ubiquitous red sauce.
I’m curious about Umbria ($15) and order it just to see how corn tastes on a pizza. However, it is not the corn which intrigues but rather, the Roma tomatoes roasted in balsamic vinegar, which makes for a really unique taste experience. Other toppings include goat cheese, mozzarella and garlic.
Not having a sweet tooth, I am not usually one to order dessert. However, I have a soft spot for Panna Cotta ($8) — a weakness if you will. The house-made vanilla bean panna cotta is exceptional, topped with fresh made berry puree. I am not able to stop eating it.
Settebello is a solid spot focused mainly on pizzas, but still offers a range of appetizers to accompany those pies with. I am happy to say, the pizza is good and I’ll definitely be back again.
7864 East Coast Hwy
Newport Coast, CA 92657