A Taste of Italy By Brian J. Murphy

Nestled in Newport Coast sits one of the finest Italian restaurants one can find outside of Italy. Located inside the Resort at Pelican Hill, Andrea Ristorante has an unparalleled ambience, menu and service. The ristorante compliments the entire atmosphere of Pelican Hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For those seeking the epitome in fine dining experience, Andrea is the pinnacle.

Upon entering the signature Tuscan dining room, one is completely overtaken by the interior design. Oversized booths, along with soft earth tones of beige and brown create an aesthetically pleasing richness. Andrea is certainly not the only place in town to offer a view of the Pacific Ocean while dining, but it’s doubtful there’s one as calming and tranquil. With a mixture of lush trees and dense greenery lining the water, your culinary escape has just begun. To top off the already exquisite vista, there is an unobstructed view of Catalina Island.

While most establishments, fine dining or not, leave a lot to be desired as it pertains to service, Andrea goes above and beyond the call of duty. Newly appointed General Manager Paolo Casciato, sets the tone for flawless service for his guest to experience. The Italian born Manager is redefining the slow-cook movement and the philosophy of Italian dining at Andrea.

All servers are wine Sommeliers, so patrons can take comfort in knowing that they are in competent hands. Nothing makes a dining experience better than a server that is well versed in the menu and can confidently expound on the dishes. Since pairing wines is such an important part of your experience, the servers know the perfect bottle to go with your entree selection. In addition to the wine, there are great food recommendations as well. Being an excellent server goes beyond being polite and asking. “Can I take that for you?” It is exemplified by paying extreme attention to detail – something the servers have mastered.

Once you get pass the views, decor and service, a place of this caliber is nothing without its chef. Enter Chef Luca Cesarini, a man who not only puts all of his talents into his dishes, but his soul as well. The taste of his food is a direct reflection of experience and a life long love affair with culinary perfection. A tour of his kitchen confirms the passion that Chef Luca has for food. The preparation of the pasta and vegetables as they gear up for the evening’s dining crowd is reminiscent of an athlete getting ready for a big game.

Born in northern Italy, Chef Luca brings a fresh new energy and philosophy to the ristorante. “Where I was born, my relatives taught me that food was a way and a part of life, so I want to be creative. I want to think outside the box and really give the people something special when they come here,” states the Chef. Just like the region that Luca comes from, Andrea will focus on very fresh seafood and vegetables. The establishment uses many local vendors, but the olive oil, and cheeses along with a few other selected ingredients, will be imported directly from Italy. “We will combine traditional dishes with a taste of 2010. One of our signature dishes is a risotto garnished with edible gold. It is my philosophy that you eat with your eyes,” says Luca.

Educated at the “E. Maggia” Culinary Art School in Stresa, Italy, Chef Luca previously worked at The Sukhothai in Bangkok , Thailand before taking over the reigns at Andrea. His education and experience have allowed Chef Luca to be cognizant of fine dining patrons, “Guest are knowledgeable and are able to dissect our wine list, I know that they love the fact that when they come in here there will be something different on the menu, which is why we have daily specials,” says the Chef.

Chef Luca takes his “you eat with your eyes to,” heart. With the same care Ferrari puts into one of their automobiles, Chef Luca puts into his dishes. For starters, his seared scallops, with cauliflower puree and crispy pancetta are simply divine. The scallops are seasoned with just the right amount of pinch, and seared to the point of a small glaze on the outside – a true cornucopia of flavor indeed.

One of the most unique aspects of Andrea is their presentation of the rissoto. On a cart, the server brings out a wheel of parmigiano-reggiano cheese, which has been aged for three years, and scrapes out the center and adds it to the rissoto. Rest assured, this process adds to the taste of the rissoto and watching it take place adds to the experience.

For the entree, Chef Luca outdoes himself with the grilled swordfish, raw tomato and basil sauce. Although there are many other options on the menu, these are but a few that are guaranteed to bring satisfaction to even the most discerning of taste buds.

The pride, energy and philosophy that are behind Andrea is conveyed in the taste of their dishes. Truth be told, upscale restaurants are a dime a dozen. To stand out from the crowd and competition, establishments must constantly reinvent themselves and continuously push the culinary envelope, Andrea is just that place. The trickle down effect of Chef Luca’s exemplary taste goes right into your mouth and provides a kaleidoscope of palette sensations. For world travelers and casual diners alike, Andrea hits it out of the park with each and every plate.