Is Orange County seeing the growth of a trend pairing restaurants with retailers? Some boutiques offer cookies or cappuccino, and Grafton Street, the fine china and crystal shop in the Atrium Court, Fashion Island, has for years offered complimentary tea daily from 12:30 to 4 p.m. (Tea here means loose tea, prepared in the English fashion, served in the store's own bone china teacups, and accompanied by biscuits, scones and cookies.) Lee West, owner of Newport Imports, even brought a Ruby's into his auto dealership. Now, two South Coast Plaza shops plan to stave off customers' hunger pangs and dips in blood sugar by offering food with their fashions. Emporio Armani, due to open this fall, will devote 2,000 of its 10,000 square feet to a full service restaurant and coffee bar, Emporio Armani Express. It's patterned after the Armani London store's successful restaurant. The restaurateur here will be Antonio Cagnolo, owner of Antonello Ristorante in Santa Ana. In addition, the expansion of Barney's New York will add Picola Cucina, another 2,000-square-foot restaurant with an outdoor patio. Its model is Barney's Dallas North Park store, with food service managed by the New York restaurant Le Madre. It's all part of taking total care of the customer, of enhancing the shopping experience, according to Jan Roberts, director of marketing at South Coast Plaza.
Also at South Coast Plaza, lots of changes are happening at Gianni's in Crystal Court, soon to be known as Trattoria Spiga. The new name means "blossoms of the wheat shafts" in Italian. New owners are Antonio Cagnolo, Enzo De Muro (a Spectrum Foods veteran) who is president of operations, David Letteriello Maffei, Frank Di Bella and Terry Antonelli. (The quintet also owns l'Opera Ristorante in Long Beach.) Roberto Forte, formerly with Tutto Mare in Newport Beach is the manager, assisted by Luca Carteni from Prego in Irvine. Chef Roberto Saracino, formerly of L'Opera, has devised the menu. A sampling: seafood salad of clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, black olives and tomatoes; penne all'Arrabbiata , and linguine sauteed with mussels and clams in a white or red sauce. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and Sunday till 7 p.m. At 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa. (714) 540-3365.
It's happy-birthday-dear-Napoleon time at Le Meridien in Newport Beach on Saturday. To celebrate, Cafe Fleuri will be decorated in the French tricolors, with a staff dressed in period costumes serving the four-course dinner. The entree: veal medallions served in their juices. The dessert: naturellement , a Napoleon mille-fueille with fresh red berries. Traditional French accordion music by Christian DiMaggio and his trio will provide the backdrop. The evening begins at 7:30, with dinner starting at 8. The price: $35, plus tax and tip. Information and reservations: (714) 476-2001, Ext. 2194. Le Meridien is at 4500 MacArthur Blvd.
Gustaf Anders' third annual crayfish party gets under way at 7 p.m. on Monday, featuring all-you-can-eat crayfish cooked with dill and served with Anders' own breads, Vasterbotten cheese, beer and aquavit. There'll also be Swedish beef stew "kalops" with pickled beets and boiled potatoes, plus dessert. Alfon Bergstrom will provide accordion music. It's $39 per person, tax and tip not included. Gustaf Anders is in South Coast Plaza Village. Reservations: (714) 668-1737.
The Maniaci brothers of Sapori in Newport Beach will unveil the new Sapori on the Market in Tustin the first week in September. With Franco remaining in Newport Beach, Sal and Adriano Maniaci will be in charge of the new location. The menu will emphasize trattoria fare--pizzas from a wood burning oven, pastas, veal dishes--with "modest" prices (a la carte pastas $6 to $7). The restaurant will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 2991 El Camino Real in the Tustin Marketplace. (714) 731-7480.
Some alternatives to before-the-performance dining are making their local debuts. The El Torito Grill in Costa Mesa now serves a three-course dinner for $14.95, beginning at 5 p.m. on the nights of performances at nearby Performing Arts Center and South Coast Repertory Theatre. Dinners come with soup or salad and an entree selection of lobster, shrimp or steak fajitas, or the day's fresh fish. Then choose from the made-in-house desserts. The restaurant is at 633 Anton Blvd. (714) 662-2672. Meanwhile, Bina Ristorante Italiano in Santa Ana and Cafe Piazza in Dana Point now offer four-course, pre-theater dinners for $10.95. Served Monday through Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., dinners include a choice of soup or salad, pasta of the day, an entree of chicken Marsala or veal piccata, plus gelato and coffee. Bina is at 1730 E. 17 St., (714) 972-3101; Cafe Piazza is at 33585 Del Obispo, (714) 496-0992.