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Orange County — By Abbie Mood on April 6, 2010 at 9:05 pm
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Review: Ti Amo Restaurant in Laguna Beach

Ti Amo Restaurant is nestled in the heart of southern Laguna Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway, and serves up some of the finest Italian food in Orange County.  Modeled after an Italian villa, the faux and fresca hand painted walls, the “stone tablet” menus, and the candelabras that decorate the tables combine to create an ambiance that will transport you to Mediterranean, even if just for an hour or two.

On the evening of my visit, we were promptly seated, and within minutes the waitress brought us some hearty rustic herb bread with a Kalamata olive tapenade.  Despite my best efforts to determine the precise ingredients of the tapenade, it’s apparently top secret!  The owner, Jim, explained to us that it is so popular he is trying to figure out a way to package and sell it.  Until then, you will just have to visit Ti Amo for a taste.

For starters we decided on the Lobster Bisque with Scallop Carpaccio ($10.95) and the Cozzole con Aglio e Vino ($9.50).  The bisque was unique in that it had a lobster broth base instead of the traditional cream base.  It was light on the palate, satisfying yet not overfilling, and it makes an excellent appetizer choice. Cozzole are mussels, and this dish had two dozen of them served in a fennel, garlic, and white wine broth.  The flavors complimented one another without being overpowering.

After starters we moved to the salad course, selecting the Insalata della Casa ($8.95), with dark greens, toasted almonds, dried cranberries, tomatoes, and a red grape vinaigrette; and the Insalata Caprese ($9.50), a traditional Italian salad with melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella cheese and ripe Roma tomatoes.

Chilean sea bass on mango risotto and a bed of spinach leaves

For our entree, we selected two of the evening specials:  Chilean sea bass and a pork chop on farfalle pasta.

The Chilean sea bass ($29.95) was seasoned just right and plated on top of sweet and creamy cheesy mango risotto and spinach leaves.  The pork chop ($28.95) was fall-off-the-bone tender, and served with a basil pesto for a delightful earthy taste that allowed all the flavors to shine through.  On this visit the Chef’s specials turned out to be great choices!

For dessert, our waitress Marta recommended a Ti Amo favorite, the banana bread pudding ($8.95).  Much more than a traditional bread pudding, this variation is more like mouth-watering banana pull apart bread drizzled with a whiskey sauce. Although you may be tempted to forego dessert, don’t.   It’s easy to see why this dessert is such a favorite!

I give Ti Amo Restaurant in Laguna Beach a very hearty recommendation, and if you don’t want to take my word on it, the restaurant is well known for the celebrities, and even former Presidents, who frequent it.  Ti Amo is a perfect place for a dinner date, to celebrate a special occasion (or none at all), and also works well for groups of friends.

Banana bread pudding, a Ti Amo favorite!

Ti Amo does not have a dress code, casual to semi-dressy is recommended.  Reservations are required, and can be made online or by calling the restaurant.

Ti Amo Restaurant is located at 31727 South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach (map).  Phone: (949) 499-5350

The owner of Ti Amo Restaurant,  Jim Hirschberg, provided the meal on the house for the purposes of this review.

Photo Credits: Eric Lang

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