Going out for an oversized bowl of New York-style spaghetti and meatballs and a bottle of Chianti will never grow old, but the Italian restaurant scene in Orange County has grown vastly more diverse than that in recent years. Bologna, Rome, Puglia… even South Philadelphia are currently having their moments. Each wildly different from the others, these are the five best Italian restaurants right now.
1. Oliver’s Osteria
Cacio e pepe wasn’t really a thing in Orange County until Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach turned this simple everyday Roman staple into a legitimate destination pasta. Now suddenly it’s on menus everywhere but nobody does it better than chef Erik De Marchi, who grew up and learned to cook in Emilia-Romagna. His version is a study in Old World simplicity: just a handful of rigatoni tossed with Pecorino and Parmesan melted into a splash of pasta water and freckled with freshly ground pepper. It perfectly encapsulates the very essence of Italian cooking. In very short order this osteria has become the best Italian restaurant in OC thanks to irresistible dishes such as lamb chops grilled with little more adornment than olive oil, salt and pepper, or a salad of baby artichokes tossed with arugula and radicchio. And just as important as the food, the Italian hospitality here is always welcoming and sincere. 853 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-715-0261, oliversosteria.com
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