EntranceOver thirty years of experience serving adoring fans and guests has paid off for one iconic Italian restaurant here in Orange County. Owner Antonio Cagnolo, and Executive Chefs Salvatore Ferrara and Gino Buonanoce have crafted a wonderful selection of new dishes as they welcome in a winter menu of lusciousness. They are also re-emphasizing their “table-side” and “flambe” offerings. Table-side service is indeed a mainstay here at Antonello’s, however sadly, one-by-one, many of the other restaurants providing such extra-special fare have faded into the western sunset. This style of service is very common in Italy, and is welcomed by those of us who enjoy an authentic dining experience.

For me, as long as the presentation is friendly and informal, it is welcomed with open arms. If it is stuffy and formal, it’s just not as much fun. And Salvatore S. D’Abbusco (Maitre D’Hotel) certainly delivered—-offered us the perfect balance. He was informative of the ingredients, friendly in his conversation, and passionate about his cuisine. As he prepared the dishes before our very eyes, he exhibited the magic touch of pace.

Our Dining Experience-

If you have ever found yourself “dreaming” about a recent dinner, you know it was quite an exceptional meal.  Fast forward. To last week. When I was “dreaming” about the Risotto at Antonello’s Ristorante!

Salvatore D’Abbusco our Maitre D’Hotel, and waiter Domico (from Spoletto where I visited this past September) were our fabulous hosts for the evening…and both did a superb job of making us feel welcome, and steering us in the direction of some exceptional dishes to share.

We started the evening with a delicious Antipasti which was prepared table-side.  It was Gamberi –large Santa Barbara Shrimps, sautéed with shallots, a hint of garlic, and dashed with Pernod for a flambéed finish. This was placed atop whipped mashed potatoes, and the remaining sauce was drizzled atop the creation.  Perfection!

The next course was found on the Primi section of the menu. This was a delicious Risotto, which changes daily. On this day, we were lucky enough to enjoy the Risotto with Shaved Truffles. This dish was lovingly prepared table-side in the center of a ten year old wheel of Parmesan. The Risotto was so rich in flavor, with a subtle hint of shaved black truffles. This was the iconic dish I was dreaming about that same night!  {Many loyal truffle fans wait with excitement for the shipment of White Truffles that sell for well over $3,000 per pound— if you can imagine such a thing. They are available during a short window of time—October to December, and clients wait patiently for its arrival.}

Our next course was a refreshing Spinach Salad, which was again prepared table-side. It began with fresh spinach leaves, malt vinegar, pancetta, diced onions, Dijon mustard, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. All tossed and plated as we observed in awe.

The special of the evening was our next course, and that was a Osso Bucco prepared in the traditional fashion, and was served with green beans that were cooked al’ dente— cooked, yet still crunchy and rich with flavor. It was heavenly.

Our finale was a wonderfully fresh Fruit Suzette Chambord with Notella and this was flambéed table-side. What better way to end an evening with fruit of the day, crepe in a creamy nutty sauce and it was the perfect end to a fantastic dining experience. Voilà!


We then retired to the lounge to listen to a lovely selection of live music while sipping on after dinner drinks. What a lovely spot to escape our busy week.

Culinary Note: For those who love flambéed items, here are just a few of the items they prepare.  For Main Courses: Black mussels with San Marzano tomatoes flambeed with Grappa,  Large shrimp with garlic, celery & European butter flambeed with Sambuca, Spinach Salad with bacon flambeed in a brandy dressing, Penne pasta with Caribbean shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes & flambeed in vodka, and Fusilli Pasta with smoked salmon, capers, and Panna. For the Dessert Menu, this includes: Fresh berry jubilee flambeed with Chambord and the famous Bananas Foster flambeed in dark rum and served with gourmet vanilla ice cream.

The Lounge-  The Enoteca Wine Bar Castellani with Live Music
Tucked in the corner of the restaurant is an intimate bar with an adjacent cozy library setting. The lounge’s name is in honor of Piergiorgio Castellani, a friend of Antonio’s, with a family history of 120 years in winemaking. The dark walls are accented with lush wood, soft lighting and comfortable seating. The stage is set for Italian singer Paco Falcone, who serenades with a broad range of songs. He plays six nights a week which is great to note and hard to find! Monday through Saturday from 6:00pm to close.

A new bar menu has a selection of twelve items, with three stand-outs: Pizzetta for $6 (Focaccia Pizza with tomatoes, black olives and Mozzarella cheese), Lasagna for $9 (layers of pasta, meat Ragu, tomatoes and béchamel), and Calamari Fritti for $6 (fried squid with spicy tomato sauce and lemon).

Happy Hour, a popular venue, is available from 4:30 to 7:00pm, Monday through Saturday with bottled beers for $4, house wines for $5 and well drinks for $6.

Each Thursday evening is “Wine Flight Night” with Ciro Cirillo escorting guests through flights of four hand-selected Italian wines with light snacks from 4:30 to 9:00pm.  Call to confirm the wine selection, visit their Facebook page, or please check the web site for weekly postings.

Upcoming Special Events at Ristorante Antonello

Winemaker Dinner – Friday, June 27th at 6:30pm
Antonello hosts our Summer Wine Dinner with the Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel Family of wineries. Five course dinner and pairings. Call for reservations and pricing. Grazie.

 Wine Flights- This is ongoing……Thursday Night Wine Flights. 5-9pm Sample 4 wines and also receive a light appetizer and learn about the great wines of Italy with Wine Importer Ciro Cirillo of the Mission Wine Company. $17 per person.

Cooking Demonstration & Cooking Classes- Please check their web site or call
714.751.7153 for more information.

Private Dining Rooms

The restaurant enjoys 8 different intimate Private Dining rooms to accommodate guests from 5 to 95 for dinner, or up to 150 for cocktails. Each room is unique with hand painted walls, stonework and old world furnishings. I had no idea there was so much public space upstairs! It was a treat to find these elegant rooms tucked away in this romantic setting.

Ristorante Antonello
South Coast Plaza Village
3800 South Plaza Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92704
Lunch: M-F 11:30 to 2:00pm
Dinner: M-F 5:30 to 9:30pm
Sat. 5:00 to 10:00pm
Closed: Sunday

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  1. Looking for Paco love his music see you soon

  2. So glad we found Paco looking forward to dancing hope theres room

    Ron and Sally

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