Tag Archives: Italian Food

Cecco Ristorante in Solvang

This past weekend the Englishman and I took a little road trip up to the Santa Ynez Valley in hopes of finding a venue for our wedding next year (spoiler alert: we did!).  We ended up spending the night in Solvang, and had a lovely dinner at Cecco Ristorante.

I actually visited Solvang about 3 years ago with the Englishman and I remember thinking it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  But I have to admit after this past trip Solvang has definitely grown on me.  I now appreciate the quirkiness of this Danish-inspired town and all that it has to offer.

But back to Cecco Ristorante.  The Englishman and I were looking for a nicer restaurant to have dinner and this place seemed to fit the bill.  It was Italian-inspired, and had a nice wine list which is always a bonus.

We opted to sit inside for dinner because it was a bit chilly, but Cecco does have a lovely outdoor patio that would be perfect on a nice warm evening.  I started the meal with a glass of prosecco and the Englishman got a beer.

cecco ristorante_wineWhile we perused the menu, we enjoyed some fresh baked bread and olive oil which is always a nice way to start a meal.

ceccoristorantebreadSince neither of us were starving, we decided to split a salad and an entrée.  We started with the Insalata Cecco which came with mesclun, tomato, ricotta salata, artichoke and lemon viniagrette.

ceccoristorantesaladThe salad was good but it was definitely lacking in the ricotta salata department.  In fact, I’m not sure there was ricotta on it at all.  The salad also came with chickpeas and potatoes, neither of which were on the menu.  It was almost as if the restaurant ran out of ingredients for the salad and just threw some ingredients together on the fly.

For our entrée we ordered the half roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables.

ceccoristorantechicken

The chicken was cooked to perfection and the flavor of the au jus was incredible.  We basically demolished the chicken because it was that good.  The sides however were a bit lacking.  Only two tiny potatoes and 4 baby carrots.  All delicious mind you, but a few more vegetables would’ve been nice.

Even though the restaurant clearly has a few kinks to work out (like serving the salads on their menu), it’s still a nice dining option if you are in Solvang.  They do have a wide variety of pizzas and pastas as well which is perfect if you aren’t in the mood for schnitzel.

Dining at Modo Mio Cucina Rustica

I was recently offered an opportunity to dine at Modo Mio Cucina Rustica in Newport Coast.  Admittedly, I had heard of the restaurant before but didn’t know too much about it except for the fact that it was located near Crystal Cove and specialized in Italian cuisine, so I was excited to check it out.

Modo Mio is located inside the Crystal Cove promenade center and has a cozy, intimate feel.  Booths and tables are located close to each other and it’s quite evident that many of the people that dine at Modo Mio are regulars since everyone seemed to know each other.

Once we were seated we were presented with delicious freshly baked bread and better to enjoy while perusing the menu.

To start our meal, we ordered the Scamorza, which was one of the specials of the evening and was smoked mozzarella and prosciutto wrapped in lettuce and then grilled and topped with fresh bruschetta.

I can’t rave enough about this appetizer.  It was amazing.  The smokiness from the mozzarella paired perfectly with the prosciutto and the grilled lettuce was the perfect finishing touch.  Our waiter told us that this used to be a regular antipasti on the menu, but due to it’s unusual name, people were reluctant to order it and instead it became a special that was only served on certain evenings.  I personally want to start a petition to get the Scamorza back on the menu because it was that good.

We also enjoyed some marinated mushrooms during our appetizer course, which tasted especially delicious on top of the bread.

For the main course, I went with the Batuta di Pollo, which was thinly pounded chicken marinated with lemon, herbs, and capers and served with potatoes and vegetables on the side.

Since Modo Mio doesn’t use heavy cream or loads of butter in their cooking, this dish was quite light while still being loaded with flavor.

The Englishman went with one of the specials of the evening and ordered the Sea Bass which was prepared in the same fashion as the Batuta di Pollo and came with potatoes and vegetables as well.

The sea bass was nice and flaky and cooked perfectly.  Both of these dishes reinforced the fact that you don’t need heavy creams and sauces to create a delicious meal.

Since we were at an Italian restaurant, we felt it was only appropriate to order some pasta, so we went with the Rigatone alle Melzane, which was rigatoni pasta made with tomatoes, eggplant and ricotta.

I’m a big eggplant fan, so I loved this dish.  The sauce had a nice flavor and wasn’t overly seasoned which was nice.  The Englishman is not a big fan of eggplant but loved this dish as well.

Then it was time for dessert.  I was immediately drawn to the Tartufo, which was a chocolate gelato with crushed hazelnuts.

Since gelato is one of my all-time favorite desserts, I loved the tartufo.  I mean does it get any better than chocolate and crushed hazelnuts?  I think not.

And because no meal is complete without Tiramisu, we ordered one of those as well.

I’ll admit that tiramisu is not my first choice when it comes to dessert, but Modo Mio’s version was very good.  If you are a tiramisu fan, I definitely recommend trying their version.

If you are ever in the Newport Coast/Crystal Cove area, I definitely recommend checking this restaurant out.  It’s has a nice home-cooked Italian meal feel to it and the prices are definitely reasonable.  I also love how owner Gianfranco Bertolino focused on more Northern Italian dishes on the menu.  If you are looking for the standard pizza and pasta dishes, you won’t find it here.  Instead, you’ll find creative Italian dishes focusing on fresh meats and vegetables, which in my opinion, is the way to go.

Many thanks to Modo Mio for inviting us to dine at their restaurant.  I know I’ll be back, and will be asking for the Scamorza again.

 

 

 

A Dining Adventure Through Epcot

This past week I traveled to Orlando for work.  While most of my time in Florida was spent working 12+ hour days, my coworkers and I did manage a visit to Epcot for what we had hoped would be a nice, relaxing dinner.  I use the word hoped because while the dinner was nice, the journey through Epcot to get said dinner was not the most relaxing.  Let’s start at the beginning…

*For those of you who have not been to Epcot – the theme park is divided into two parts: Future World and the International Showcase.  The International Showcase has a bunch of different “countries” that offer dining, shopping, and some attractions.  The plan was to have dinner in one of the countries.

7:30 PM

After working an extra long day, my coworkers and I bounded over to Epcot with hopes of putting delicious food in our bellies along with a bottle (or two) of wine.  The park seemed a bit crowded but we made our way in and headed straight over to the International Showcase with visions of delicious food dancing through our heads.

7:40 PM

The realization has sunk in that we are smack dab in the middle of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, so finding a place to eat might be challenging, as the park is pretty crowded.  Onward we march to Canada.

7:45 PM

The nice hostess at the Canadian steakhouse kindly informs us there is no room at the restaurant as they are at capacity and closing soon.  She suggests we try sushi in Japan.

7:45-8:00 PM

Make the long walk over to Japan.  Get distracted/annoyed by all of the food and wine festival guests who are stopping at various food vendors along the way.  Consider getting a gyro from a Greek stand and calling it a night.

8:10 PM

Stop over in France to see if they have any seating availability.  Have a confusing/frustrating conversation with the French Host that went something like this:

Me: Do you have a table available for a party of 5?

French Host:  Oui.  What is your name?

Me:  Is there a wait to be seated?

French Host: I don’t know.  Maybe?  But we do have a table.

Me:  Can you check?  (French Host disappears and then returns)

French Host: Well I have good news, I can seat you!  But not your friends.

Me: Umm, that’s not going to work.  So you don’t have a table then.

French Host:  No we do have a table.  I just don’t know when it will be open.

Me: Ok, thank you (starts to walk off).

French Host: So you aren’t waiting?

8:15 PM

Arrive in Japan.  Are informed it is a 20-30 minute wait.  Everyone is about to gnaw their arm off.  One of my coworkers and I decide to take matters into our own hands.

8:20 PM

Arrive in Italy.  Beg the host at Tutto Italia to seat us even though they are ending seating in 10 minutes.  Host says we can sit as long as we have our entire party.  Frantically call other coworkers and tell them to come down immediately.

8:30 PM

Finally seated for dinner without a moment to spare.  The Host assumes we are a soccer team because we are all wearing green shirts (from work).  Promptly order a bottle of wine and glasses of prosecco.

Are you all still with me?  Now let’s get to the important stuff, like the food.

As I mentioned above, we started our meal off with some wine and prosecco and some freshly baked bread which was promptly devoured.

For the appetizer course I went with the roasted eggplant.  I was so hungry that I neglected to take a photo. It was good, but nothing super exceptional.  Just nice, Italian comfort food.

For my entrée I rolled with the Caprese Pasta that had penne, tomatoes and mozzarella.

This was actually a lot better than I expected!  The pasta was cooked perfectly and the mozzarella was nice and creamy.  For theme park dining, this was pretty decent.

While the food at Tutto Italia is definitely overpriced (thank goodness I was not paying),  the dishes are definitely higher quality than your typical theme park food.  Plus, the decor was all cute and cozy and reminded me of being in Italy, so that was an added bonus.

We left the restaurant in a happy carb-filled coma, and promptly passed out upon returning to the hotel.  Thanks, Epcot, for saving us from dying of hunger.

Random Fun Fact:  All the employees in the International Showcase have to be originally from the country they work in, like our server at Tutto Italia who was born in Milan but now lives in Florida.  Learn something new everyday I tell you.