Gina's Alfresco serves more than Italian enticements

Glori Fickling

Although festival season winds down this weekend, there is still time

to enjoy the fun, food and enticements our summer season perennially

brings.

Among the newer attractions this year was the arrival of Gina's

Alfresco at the Festival of Arts. This tempting attraction is the

latest creation of the long-successful Costa family, which boasts

five popular Italian restaurants, two of which are right here in

town.

Selected by festival aficionados from among dozens of entries, the

refreshing outdoor cafe was designed to bring family-style fare at

affordable prices. Thus, astute principal Andrew Costa and his

gracious daughter Anna, present such favorite dishes and snacks as

Brooklyn hot dogs, cheese and chili dogs, char-grilled hero and sub

sandwiches, along with small versions of their famous pizzas called

pizzettas. These include cheese, pepperoni and super veggie

combinations.

Among appealing new recipes is a delicious salad composed of

roasted zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, chopped tomato and mixed

greens. Zesty balsamic vinaigrette, concocted from a coveted family

formula, is presented separately to assure that the vegetables remain

crisp. A second new treat is the Tuscan tri-tip sandwich -- tender

slices of grilled beef and roasted peppers enveloped in a hefty roll

and wrapped in foil and butcher paper to retain heat. The creamy

dressing, again, is served separately to add as you please. As a

special favorite to pamper the low-carb-conscious customer, the

tri-tip is also offered as a salad accompaniment.

With more than 100 items to choose from, there is virtually

something here to please everyone. Breakfast favorites, available all

day, include Italian frittatas, fruit boats, veggie and meat

scrambolis, the latter is based on scrambled eggs. Desserts range

from ice cream and jumbo cookies to creamy cheesecake and crisp,

caramel apple wedges. Crunchy sugar-coated almonds are another treat,

as is a delectably flakey, cinnamon-scented muffin. Fruit flavored

shaved ice comes drenched with such unusual syrups as pina colada,

bubblegum and triple taste combinations. Hot and cold beverages are

ever at the ready. And if your preference is for a glass of wine or

chilled champagne, the adjacent Tivoli Terrace restaurant

accommodates with its inviting libation station on the grounds

nearby.

Festival attendees are assured quick service after marking orders

on printed paper menus. Prices range from $2.50 for sweet treats and

$4.50 for the all-beef hot dogs, to a top $7.50 for tri-tip

specialties. Comfortable seating is available at tables arranged in

front of the cafe's order stations where condiments are on tap. Or

you may carry your selections to the grassy plateau where live music

emanates from the flower-laden stage. To accommodate guests on the

pageant intermission break, the Costa family presents a coffee and

tea cart along with assorted sweets.

If you miss the food, fun and frivolity of this final festival

weekend, it is not too late to savor Gina's delicacies at the two

Laguna Beach locations. Gina's Pizza and Pasteria is in Boat Canyon

at 610 N. Coast Highway, phone (949) 497-4421, and in the Village

Fair Shops at 1100 S. Coast Highway, phone (949) 494-4342.

NEWS BITES

Plaudits to First Team Nolan for hosting the Chamber of Commerce

August Mixer in the company's refreshing courtyard on Glennerye

Street. The selection of Stalker's Fine Foods to cater the festive

reception, along with amazing Australian wines, added up to one of

the most memorable mixers ever. Strolling servers, headed by

principal Jock Stalker, graciously proffered delectable prosciutto

wrapped asparagus spears, plump pot stickers with ginger dip, savory

rosemary-stemmed meatballs and crunchy focaccia toasts. Stalker's

phone number is (949) 494-9568.

A hearty thank you to the thoughtful generosity of Royal Hawaiian,

Javier's and Wahoo's for honoring Jeana Harrell last Sunday at the

Sandpiper. The jam-packed outdoor reception was presided over by

Jeana's dedicated sons Chip and Chuck, with an inspirational

invocation by friend Brad Charlton. His enlightening dissertation was

a glowing tribute to the energetic octogenarian whose longtime

dedication to the restaurant/entertainment industry was celebrated

along with her many-faceted life experiences.

* GLORI FICKLING is a longtime Laguna Beach resident who has

written restaurant news and views columns since 1966. She may be reached at (949) 494-4710 or by e-mail at ghoneywest@aol.com.

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