The spirit of Christmas is happily alive in Laguna, and no more
colorfully so than at Mark’s restaurant in the heart of town.
Created some dozen years ago by magnanimous principal Mark De
Palma, the handsome establishment is festively decorated to the
rafters in holiday glitter. From the exterior pine tree draped in
holiday crimson to the entire building and parking area, everything
is splendiferously aglow in cascades of tiny white lights.
The theme continues inside this enticing dinner house, setting a
festive pace for celebrating guests.
The magic of Christmas enhances stately palms punctuating the
elevated terrace overlooking the lights of Coast Highway, the
spacious dining room where grandiose still-life paintings grace the
walls and the bustling cocktail lounge, too.
But it is the delicious cuisine of chef Martine Gonzalez and the
gracious welcome and attentive service that makes Mark’s a favorite
dining destination all year for knowledgeable tourists and longtime
Gonzalez, who has worked with DePalma for 17 years, starting with
his first restaurant in Los Angeles, revises the menu three times a
year in collaboration with his enterprising mentor. A new menu is
expected by year’s end.
International flavors are typified by such appetizers as mango
brie quesadillas, for a taste of Mexico; vegetable spring rolls, for
a touch of Thailand; and succulent steamed mussels imported from New
The last are redolent of lemon, garlic and cilantro. They offer a
briny taste of the sea described by one appreciative guest as
bringing to her palate a “burst of crashing waves.”
A taste of Italy comes via gnocchi with shrimp, risotto with
chicken, rigatoni in a saute of chicken breast and fresh and
sun-dried tomatoes livened with pine nuts, sage, marjoram and a
creamy garlic wine butter sauce, not to mention luscious tiramisu,
among an octave of yummy desserts.
Entrees also offer a diverse range of international flavors, from
Cajun chicken topped with mango ginger salsa; chicken curry with
coconut, mango and raisins; and ahi tuna with wasabi, avocado and
Toothsome accompaniments are equally innovative -- mashed sweet
potatoes and fresh cut corn with a thick slab of
cranberry-chipotle-drizzled pork prime rib, tender green beans and
creamy mashed potatoes with Roquefort, shallot-topped filet mignon,
wild rice pilaf and sauteed vegetables with peppercorn-crusted salmon
The prices -- $5.75 to $11.50 for appetizers, soup and salads;
$10.95 to $13.25 for pastas; $13.50 to $22.95 for entrees -- take a
huge tumble on Monday nights. That is when locals in-the-know jam the
place to enjoy many of their favorite dishes for about half the usual
DePalma hosts frequent buffet presentations at the Laguna Art
Museum and many in-house fund-raisers for such charities as AIDS
Services Foundation, Acres of Love for children and many
cancer-related events. For these, he credits the dedicated assistance
of his very beautiful wife, Melinda.
* GLORI FICKLING is a longtime Laguna Beach resident who has
written restaurant news and views columns since 1966. She may be reached at 494-4710 or by e-mail at email@example.com.