*****I apologize ahead of time for the less than perfect photos in this post*****
It’s been a year since I last visited Maré Culinary Lounge, but I have not forgotten about it. They even made it onto my “best of 2013″ list and in my book, it is still the best Italian restaurant in Orange County! Therefore, when it was time to celebrate my friend Brenda’s birthday, there was no doubt in my mind it was time to introduce this group of gals to Chef Alessandro Pirozzi’s incredible cuisine.
The restaurant was jam packed the night of our visit, and boy was I glad I made a reservation! The gals started off with some cocktails, and since I was the designated driver, it was my night to refrain from drinking.
A basket of focaccia was dropped off at the table with some pesto dipping sauce while we perused the menu, but it was really difficult because there was too much we wanted to try.
We started off with some Salumi e Formaggi ($26/6 items) and were shocked at how generous the board was. Our selection included wild boar salami, parma prosciutto, duck prosciutto, burricotta (burrata stuffed with ricotta, black lava sea salt, rosemary, EVO, arugula), sottocenere (ash aged truffle infused Italian cheese) and scamorze (smoked mozzarella wrapped in speck, baked, bruschetta, tomatoes). My favorites were the burricotta and scamorze.
I’d eaten a fish carpaccio here before and so Seabass Carpaccio ($18) was a must. Thinly sliced seabass is placed on a heated plate which cooks it slightly. It is then topped with fennel, arugula, spicy Calabrian chili, sea salt and drizzled with sorrento lemon infused extra virgin olive oil. I love the layers of flavors in this dish. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a good photo for this dish.
Another favorite is Polipo Mediterranean ($14) of paper thin slices of house made braised octopus carpaccio, bell peppers, black Sicilian lava salt and imported caper berries. Honestly, this is not a dish I want to share with others because it is THAT good!
If you’re a fan of pasta I highly suggest you order one of the house made pastas on the menu. In fact, I insist you order one. My favorite is always Limoncello infused Radiatori ($24), Maré’s signature pasta filled with bright flavors and dotted with tender Maine lobster chunks in a Pinot Grigio fresh local lemon sauce. If you like citrus, this will absolutely knock your socks off.
Short Rib Ravioli with butter truffle sauce was one of the specials of the night and I can’t even begin to describe how mindblowingly good this was. I am not a fan of ravioli because usually the pasta is always either too hard, or there is too much of it. Chef Alessandro’s ravioli are like pillowy clouds and I literally closed my eyes when I put it into my mouth.
We all wanted to try Mushroom Risotto ($16) even though we were pretty stuffed by now. We only managed a few bites of this incredible dish of perfectly al dente imported Italian Carnaroli rice, wild mushrooms and creamy gorgonzola fondue.
We also tried two entrees, the venison and branzino which I wasn’t able to capture good enough photos for.
I was so glad I chose Maré Culinary Lounge for this birthday dinner because everyone loved it so much they even bought portions of Chef Alessandro’s fresh house made pastas to take home with them. I only hope I have time to return again soon and not wait a whole year for it to happen!
Maré Culinary Lounge
696 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651