I m surprised nobody has mentioned Trachts. It is in the Renaissance Hotel downtown.
Ive been 4 or 5 times and have had excellent meals. I think the ambiance part comes from the fairly cool decor or that they have a great patio facing Ocean Bl.
Above are some very good reccs. I really like Cafe Gazelle and Frenchy's
We also like Christy's on Broadway. It has a great menu and a mellow vibe.
I would say all of the above have great, consistent food with a good ambiance.
While visiting my girl, a Long Beach resident, I visited La Parolaccia. For inspiration, I went to Yelp and Chowhound to get some local recommendations. La Parolaccia was among the top rated spots but I'm not sure why, perhaps because LB has a dearth of high quality restaurants and the local Yelpers don't expect much?
The restaurant has an atmosphere somewhere between a takeout pizza joint and a neighborhood bistro aspiring to be upscale. Without much effort they could lean more towards upscale by replacing the flimsy paper place mats with linen and by replacing the plastic 'china' with real china. The silverware was cheap stainless and the glassware was clunky, but at least the red wine glass was a decent size to allow our red wine to breathe. I was also put off by the cheesy laminated menus that were ridiculously difficult to read due to the distracting background behind the type. Use instead a decent menu cover with an insert printed on nice stock .
One feature that lent some authenticity was the prominently displayed Vespa, which evoked memories of the buzzing and whining that fill Rome's busy streets.
Service begins with a basket of a fresh white bread that's very close to the bread you get in Italy; it's crusty, holely and devoid of salt. It's served with an odd tomato spread that seems to be tomato paste with Italian seasonings, which is a nice alternative to the ubiquitous olive oil that one finds elsewhere.
The menu's offerings are a departure from the usual suspects found on most Italian-American restaurants. I've only been once so I can only speak about the dishes we ate, but the descriptions sounded very good. One notable omission is the complete lack of beef on the menu; there's plenty of chicken and a couple of veal dishes but if you're in the mood for a nice steak prepared a la Fiorentina you're SOL.
We started with two starters: the first was Cozze e vongole saltate, a dish of mussels and clams served with a spicy tomato sauce. The description isn't accurate--it indicated fresh tomato but the base was a canned product--but the mussels and small, briny clams were properly cooked and the tomato sauce had a nice bite to it. Despite it's heaviness, the sauce was delicious sopped up with some of that soft white bread. Not a huge portion but suitable as a starter and a nice share with your companion.
The second starter was less successful. Cozze e vongole saltate was described as marinated and grilled baby artichoke with grana padano cheese. The description was accurate but the articulation of the dish was off. The artichokes were tender and had tiny little peeled stems--just as they should-- but they were floating in a very generic olive oil and they used a stale, flavorless cheese. It's much better to use a high quality cheese--real parmesan reggiano--and use much less of it, the cost will be the same and real deal elevates a dish to something sublime. For the cost, I was disappointed in the portion size.
For our mains we chose two of the restaurants specials: mushroom ravioli in a tomato, cheese sauce and rack of lamb. The raviolis were small, tasty morsels but the pasta was dried not fresh and they were a little too a la dente. The sauce wasn't very light and was too cheesy, but tasty nonetheless. The rack of lamb was a tiny portion for the cost, but it was tender, flavorful and the temperature was spot on medium rare. It was served with a flavorful mushroom rosemary sauce but the rosemary leaves weren't chopped finely enough and I kept having to remove them from my mouth. The garnishes were a terribly overcooked melange of green beans, broccoli and carrot that was inedible and a bland mashed potato. I'd much prefer a nice crisp par-boiled broccoli sauteed with fresh garlic and a roast potato or a choice of pasta.
We also order two side dishes: Asparagi al formaggio, described as fresh asparagus sauteed in white wine and garlic sprinkled with cheese and Funghi trifolati, described as "wild" mushrooms sauteed in white wine, garlic and fresh parsley, mildly spicy. Both dishes missed completely. The asparagus were bland and mushy with the same hard, flavorless cheese and the mushrooms were common white mushrooms, not wild mushrooms and weren't cooked long enough without any of the advertised spiciness.
We ordered vanilla "sorbet" for dessert which wasn't anything more than a common vanilla ice cream and the double espesso was definitely a single, though properly prepared. We had a bottle of the Amarone, Cesari, Venetowhich 2004 which at $56 was a good value.
The service was friendly but not attentive or knowledgeable. Our waiter didn't know the wine list, the portion size of the lamb or what the "sorbets" were. Not once was our wine poured for us after it was opened and we had to ask for a sparkling water, a refill of bread and our check.
After tip, the check was about $180, a price I'd expect to pay at a much more refined restaurant.
Replying to earlier posts in the thread praising Cafe Piccolo. We went there a few months ago, and willnever go back. In general the food was mediocre. The only thing that stands out was that the tomato soup they served me was literally warmed up tomato sauce.
When we want good and charming neighborhood Italian, we leave our neighborhood (Seal Beach) and head to some old stomping grounds, Garduno's in Costa Mesa. I've been there at least 50 times and its always worth the drive for us.
Have you tried Cafe Roma, in Sunset Beach? I've only been there once, but had a great meal. My only complaint is that the salad is pre-tossed with dressing ahead of time, which makes it lose some of its crispness. I had a seafood sauce which they oblingly put over steamed vegetables for me instead of pasta. My friend thoroughly enjoyed her pasta dish. They have a full bar, and get crowded on weekends. Portions were more than ample, and priced well. I'd be interested to hear what others think.
One place that I love is Patty's Place in Seal Beach. Behind Restaurant Koi in the same center on PCH. They specialize in prime steaks and they have a beautiful wine selection, Wine Spectator award of excelence for the last 3 years. Great little bar and small dining room with some outdoor seating.
Lot's of goodies in LBC:
Italian: La Travetta (great food/ambiance), Gazelle (never been but have heard great things!), La Opera (same as gazelle)
Steak/American: Kelly's on 2nd street (looks like dive outisde, but great inside), 555, Lashers
Frenchy's is awesome.
La Creperie is good, but one step away from being a chain, and the worst live musical performances I have ever encountered.
Also on 2nd st: FORA and NICO's
Ambiance? Quiet, the hip scene or romantic?
-Cafe Gazelle-off of 2nd St. Small place with only 8 tables. Italian and appropriate portions
-Ditto on L' Creperie-kinda noisy sometimes, not great acoustics
-Tantalum has a great view, go for drinks in the bar, but I do like the calamari
-Restaurant Koi on PCH in Seal Beach (right next door to LB)-great fresh sushi, sit at the bar
-There are now 3 middle eastern/med restros on 2nd. I prefer Open Sesame and Magic Lamp, not hip on Sunin, but I will give them another try since they keep getting rave reviews.
-Sophy's on Anaheim for Cambodian, but not much ambiance
-Frenchy's on Anaheim, well know for french, not sure since it is on my list of to go to places
-La Parolaccia Osteria Italiana on Broadway-huge menu-Italian
-The Sky Room, views great, not sure on the food.
-Buster's Beach House-breakfast is good, haven't been for any other meals, nice water view as well
That is a good rundown.
Romantic. I agree with Cafe Gazelle and Frenchy's. Both have great food and service. Neither are the best for views or roving soprano's at your table, but they are clean. Frenchy's is my favorite - dont let the bland exterior fool you!
I would add Christy's on Broadway. Great food, wine selection and service. Nice atmosphere.
I'll let you decide on amazing and just list my favorite non-chain places. I'm sure others will debate/add to.
Thai: Okay, technically this is in Lakewood: Thai Corner, at Carson/Paramount between 7-11 and Me n Eds. Recommended dishes: Spicy Chicken Salad, Eggplant with Black Bean Sauce, Papaya Salad, Sticky Rice and Mango. Ask for it spicy and they will make it very very spicy. Your option.
Benley, 8191 East Wardlow Road
Quasi Vietnamese with minalistic decor. Recommended dishes: Shaken beef, buttermilk panna cotta.
Cafe Piccolo, 3222 E Broadway. Nice ambience on the patio. Solid California Med Cuisine and not terribly expensive.
I'll leave Belmont Shore to others.
Avoid: Tantalum. Yuk. Think PF Chang's food and Pier One Decor. But the view is nice.
My new fav in the area is Koi Sushi, assuming you sit with Taka. He'll do you right. Technically in Seal Beach, 5th and PCH.
Belmont Shore has L'Creperie for good dessert crepes and even lunch/dinner. Yen Sushi and Bono's next door are also solid. I like Babette's for croissants, and Open Sesame for very good, inexpensive middle eastern. Bigg's had a very inventive grilled cheese, too bad that place is gone. We'll see if Vint's (the replacement) is any good.
L'Opera and Mums down on Pine St have always been my favorites in LB, but it's been a while since I've been. There's a good cigar place above Mums. There's also good tapas downtown as well...Sevilla, perhaps?