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Jul 2, 2007 01:53 PM

Help: Best Fine Italian in Orange County

Hello fellow chowhounders,

I have been searching the boards for the best fine italian food in orange county. It is my brothers birthday and I wanted to take him out for a nice dinner.

Neither of us drink, so an extensive wine list is not in our criteria.

I am thinking Antonello's, Nello Cucina, Villa Nova, Dolce.

What do the chowhounders think?

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    1. re: 1000steps

      Antonello's is what I was leaning towards. I made a reservation for Antonello's already, but wanted some second opinions.

      Thanks 1000steps.

    2. I would also consider Onotria. It is up Bristol St. from Antonello's in Costa Mesa. It is Italian wine country cuisine. I would say that Antonello's is more upscale, but the menu at Onotria is decidedly more unique. It reminds me of the food I actually ate in Italy.

      I feel Antonello's menu is pretty typical and overpriced. Fried calamari, scampi, minestrone soup, ravioli, caesar's salad etc.

      I think saw capellini with shrimp on the menu for $31.00. It is quite beautiful inside though.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cdmedici

        Just a warning about Onotria: they are closed this week, from July 1 to July 8. I tried to go to lunch there today, but saw a sign saying they were closed, either for vacation or some minor remodeling. The front door was open, but there were no tables in the dining hall.

      2. I went to Antonello's for a birthday party a couple of months ago with a group of 15 and we were able to get our own room. It was very nice and made the whole dinner very intimate. We shared some appetizers and all ordered different dishes so we could try one another's food.We tried a couple of pasta dishes, steak, veal, and seafood. I didn't think the food was very good at all.I'm quite picky with my Italian food. I've been to Italy twice and feel that pastas dishes in the US always leave me unsatisfied. And I thought it was extremely pricey.

        I have gone to Onotria 3 times and every time, I've had a great experience. The food has always been stellar. Their menu is a lot better I then Antonello's. It has great seasonal dishes. My friend had the pork chop there and she was in love. You can really taste the freshness of their produce and the homemade pasta.

        2 Replies
        1. re: karynx78

          Thanks cdmedici and karynx78 for your suggestions as well. We ended up going to Antonello's and everyone enjoyed the meals they had.

          Some of the dishes we had were the carpaccio, prosciutto, bresaola drizzled with lemon & truffle oil appetizer, we all really enjoyed this dish. For mains we had lobster and pasta dish, shrimp and pasta, cioppino, and a chicken milanese. I am sorry I don't remember the Italian names.

          I will definitely try out Onotria for my brothers next birthday. Thanks again to all.

          1. re: Tony

            Try to get yourself to Onotria before your brother's next birthday. It is BY FAR the best Italian restaurant in OC and you will not be disappointed. Not to mention that it has a wonderful wine list. It's currently my favorite upscale restaurant in OC right now.

        2. Antonello will be the most expensive but I think Villa Nova would be the most fun.......Don't even consider Dolce

          3 Replies
          1. re: Culinary Master

            Don't forget about Il Fornaio. Very authentic.

            1. re: EclecticEater

              For a is pretty good. Far beyond Maggiano's, Macaroni Grill and Buco de Beppo.

              1. re: cdmedici

                i liked the Prego chain, but used to default to Il long as it was not the PASADENA location. baaaad service.

          2. As others have said, don't even consider Villa Nova or Dolce - bleech!!! I've always had great food at Francoli in Fashion Island - especially their lunches, but not the super upscale setting you may be looking for.

            For romance, Te Amo in Laguna is very nice.

            2 Replies
            1. re: torta basilica

              I haven't been to Villa Nova for ages, but used to like their food, especially their garlic cheese bread - what's wrong with it? Has it gone down?

              1. re: aurora50

                I went for the 1st time about a year and a half ago, and I won't go back. The atmosphere and view are nice, but the food just was not good. IIRC, I had the veal marsala with a side of severely undercooked vegetables. I probably would have gotten a better piece of veal at Olive Garden or Macaroni Grille, and paid half the price.