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The Gossiping Gourmet: H.B. dining scene gets even better with Imola

The cioppino at Imola in Huntington Beach.
(Terry Markowitz / Independent)

The Huntington Beach restaurant scene has been growing nicely; my dining companion and I have really enjoyed the last three places where we have dined.

A new place called Imola, which has been open for about two months, is no exception.

When we walked in, we were greeted by very loud music and a cacophony from the bar area. We asked if we could sit somewhere quieter, and the hostess suggested the outdoor patio. Heaters and a very large, attractive fireplace provided just the right warmth. The decibel level was also nicely muted.

The menu is Italian, and we found the food to be authentic. After we ordered, we were served warm bread and a small, complementary cup of cream of asparagus soup that was rich, salty and delicious.

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We then had two dishes from the “Small Plates” category. Fritto misto was a bowl of lightly breaded and fried calamari, which was tender and accented with a very good spicy arrabiata sauce.

Our other starter was the mozzarella bites. These were breaded and fried round balls stuffed with really good stringy white cheese and served with thin slices of pickled, lightly fried pepperoncini strewn about the dish.

For my main dish, I ordered the cioppino, and it was as good as any I have eaten in Italy. The large bowl of stew was filled with little clams, mussels, salmon and crab legs split open for easy eating. It was just delicious, and the entire dish was elevated by a rich, wonderful tomato seafood broth. I was so glad that we had that bread for soaking up this tasty broth.

My dining companion selected the wild mushroom ragu, another winner. This was huge bowl of long, al dente pasta shells and luscious mixed mushrooms with baby carrots and fennel resting in a creamy, buttery Madera sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese.

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The restaurant’s 10 entrées include sea bass, salmon, seared sea scallops, roasted chicken, grilled flat iron steak, grilled New York steak, grilled sirloin and braised short ribs.

Cheesecake with raspberry sauce at Imola in Huntington Beach.
(Terry Markowitz / Huntington Beach Independent)

Our lovely waitress recommended the house-made cheesecake with raspberry sauce for dessert. Wow! The plate was decorated with circles of raspberry sauce surrounding the cheesecake. The cake itself was worthy of something one finds in a New York deli.

It had a rich, smooth texture and just the right amount of sweetness and was topped with a big dollop of whipped cream, which was also not overly sweet. The crust under the cake was moist, which is unusual, but it was simply delicious, with lots of fruity flavor on its own.

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Imola also serves pizzas and calzones. A list of sandwiches includes the Italiano with cappicola prosciutto de Parma, soppresata, fontina, tomato and greens tossed in Italian dressing and pesto aioli.

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TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

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IMOLA

Location: 210 5th St., Huntington Beach

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays; 11 to 1:30 a.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays

Prices:

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Appetizers: $5 to $11

Entrees: $16 to $28

Desserts: $7 to $9

Wine:

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Bottles: $20 to $64

By the glass: $6 to $13

Corkage: $15

Information: (714) 536-5001

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