A new shopping center across from the Irvine Spectrum Center recently opened. It is called Los Olivos Marketplace, and it is a very attractive, upscale venue, with several dining options as well as shops and a huge Whole Foods Market.
My dining companion and I were there to do an article on Angelina’s Pizzeria Napoletana and were pleasantly surprised to find that it is in a large and attractive corner space in this new mall. Indoor diners have a view of the two very large 900-degree wood-burning ovens and a selection of seating options from lovely hard wood tables and upholstered seats to banquets, booths and seats at tall stools facing the open kitchen, as well as tall stools facing the walls of lighted bottles of wine.
The high, sculpted ceiling is beautiful with huge light fixtures. The tall windows and doors are all glass, and the floor is white marble. This has to be the prettiest pizzeria I’ve ever seen.
Pizza is the eatery’s specialty, but it nonetheless has a very interesting menu. The menu mentions that the “dough is formed by hand, the tomatoes and mozzarella must follow stringent standards and the pizzas are cooked very quickly in the incredibly hot ovens.”
We began with the special antipasto salad of the day, which was an octopus salad. The octopus had a nice char and was accompanied by little squares of potato, sweet red peppers, cherry tomatoes, arugula, a few strips of sweet onions and a light dressing. It was a very nice starter.
Our favorite antipasto, however, was the salsiccia al forno, a Napoletana-style mild sausage served on a bed of roasted bell peppers and topped with a Gorgonzola fondue. The cheese was melted and just a little sweet. And it was really delicious.
The pizzas come in one size — 12 inches — though there are two types, one with red sauce and one with out any sauce. We selected one of each. The burrata with eggplant, fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil, pink salt and extra virgin olive oil had a nice thin crust, but the eggplant was tasteless. The mozzarella was melted all over the pie, but the Burrata cheese was cold, which seemed very strange. That spoiled the pizza for me. I don’t know if it was a mistake or intentional.
I am happy to say that our other pizza, the saporita, was very good, with chunks of excellent Napoletana-style sausage scattered over the San Marzano DOP pomodoro sauce and lots of Gorgonzola cheese and fior di latte mozzarella, melting everywhere. Fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil completed one of the best pizzas I’ve had.
Our final dish was from the pasta menu. The Ravioli Mimosa featured the house-made ravioli, which was stuffed with fresh riccota cheese and spinach, sauteed with baked ham in that wonderful San Marzano DOP pomodoro sauce augmented with cream. The ravioli was good but the best part was that great tomato sauce.
Deserts may be the pizzeria’s only weakness, at least we made that assessment after trying two. Three house-made gelati are chocolate, vanilla and pistachio. I chose the pistachio, which had nuts in it but lacked depth of flavor. It just tasted like cream. The cannoli had a very thick crust that was hard to really bite into, and the filling was just OK.
I think this will be a very popular venue. The food is good and the staff is very friendly and helpful. Maybe it’s my age, but once again I found the restaurant to be very noisy. This seems to be happening a lot lately. Don’t younger people want to talk to each other these days?
TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at email@example.com.
ANGELINA’S PIZZERIA NAPOLETANA
Where: Los Olivos Market Place, 8573 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine
When: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Fridays; 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sundays.
Appetizers: $8 to $18
Entrees: $14 to $28
Pizza: $ 14 to $21
Bottles: $29 to $125
By the glass: $8 to $16
Information: angelinaspizzeria.com; (949) 536-5200