My husband and I were thrilled when we heard my next assignment would be a restaurant review: delicious food and a date night?! Sold! Oliver’s Osteria exceeded our expectations on every level. From the moment we walked in it felt as if we had been transported to Italy from the décor to the warmth of the staff we instantly felt like we were in the Old Country. It’s situated right in the heart of the canyon in the space that was formerly Ivory Restaurant & Lounge in Laguna Beach. It just feels peaceful, like you’re in your own little corner of the world.
I don’t know if it was the fact that we hadn’t been out in quite a while but between the service and the food we were instantly in heaven: a glass of red wine (or 2), a charming maître d’ and freshly baked bread and bruschetta to start! As I perused the menu I noticed my absolute favorite dish, burrata caprese. It did not disappoint—the only thing that was disappointed was my husband after I inhaled all of it. Now, I had heard about the Rigatoni cacio e pepe from the article in the OC Register, so there was a lot riding on this particular dish. We are still talking about it weeks later. It’s perfectly cooked and glazed with melted pecorino and parmesan cheeses then sprinkled with freshly ground pepper. I honestly would ask for this on my deathbed. To complete a near perfect meal we were treated to the tiramisu—constructed from the homemade pastries of the chef, not just your average ladyfingers. We were licking the platter, and this was a nice establishment mind you, but I really have no shame when it comes to dessert.
Inspired by the authentic cuisine of the Emilia Romagna region in Italy, Oliver’s Osteria is a traditional Italian Osteria reimagined for the present day. It makes sense that Chef Erik De Marchi, is a former protégé of Chef Gino Angelini and immigrated to Los Angeles from Italy nearly 20 years ago to work in the kitchen at Angelini Osteria shortly after that legendary restaurant opened. He is now bringing his talents to our neck of the woods and boy do we need it! I never realized how our watered-down Americanized version of Italian food is so far off from the real thing. And for the two of us, who just had a baby, we aren’t about to jet off to Italy anytime soon so it is good to know when we have a craving we know exactly where to go.
The food industry is constantly changing whether it’s billowing dry ice or molecular gastronomy—it was so refreshing to get back to basics with local ingredients, family recipes and really great hospitality. Authenticity meets simplicity—that’s what you get at Oliver’s Osteria, named after the owner’s son who was born the same day he opened if you can believe that! That just illustrates the passion Chef Erik has for his childhood traditions and his love of food and people! They have a commitment to local family growers and purveyors and supporting our community. It was an absolute pleasure to dine here and I would highly recommend it—whether you can snag a seat at the bar or the outdoor patio would be the perfect setting for any occasion. It’s a must try, must see—hurry and book your table before the word is out and they book up! Be sure to visit their website www.oliversosteria.com or call (949) 715-0261 to reserve a table.
TANYA FEIN IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.