By Linda Kissam
Turn right at the fork – literally. Spaghettini Restaurant, 3005 Old Ranch Pkwy, Seal Beach, CA. It’s an 11,000 square foot place, 450 seat, four-room venue that locals love and visitors willingly make the drive to, to experience exceptional food, jazz and service. Find your way to Old Ranch Parkway and …yup…you got it…turn right at the fork in the road.
There’s several things foodies and music lovers should note when it comes to Spaghettini. Among the top three are its Jazz and supper offerings, its innovative menu (lunch, brunch and dinner), its special long-term staff and the people who run it, including the exceptionally talented Chef Victor.
This is a restaurant that not only has survived the tough Orange County food scene, but has thrived. Restaurateur wannabe’s and struggling restaurants could learn a thing or two about how to make a go of it. Keep it simple. Choose your ingredients carefully. Treat your clients with care and present a great menu filled with things your clients crave. Once you’ve done that celebrate your achievements with a first-rate cookbook that tells your story and shares the most beloved dishes served over the last three decades.
This book serves as a platform to get to know the story of Managing Partners Cary Hardwich and Laurie Sisneros, their restaurant and the people who work there. It’s a peek into the how’s and whys of how Spaghettini came to be and continues on as a popular gastronomic and music destination.
After dining at the restaurant with several other food writers, speaking with the managing partners and reading the cookbook, it seems to me that this place has several things going for it. Take equal parts management expertise, premium produce from stellar Melissa’s Produce, a menu to die for, professional jazz concerts to look forward to and a cookbook that really does share its best easy-to-follow recipes… and together you have the perfect storm of perfection.
Some of my favorite recipes from the book include the Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta (p.18) the Ahi Tuna Tartare (p.13) and the Pommery Shrimp (p.21 – recipe included at the end of this article). The shrimp dish is so popular it has been on the menu since the restaurant opened and remains one of the top selling items. See the recipe below.
The people sitting dining with me were obvious salad lovers. They were wowed with the Beet Salad (p.29) and the Caprese Salad (p.33). Each dish is just as beautiful on the plate as on the palate. Of special note is Chef Avila’s version of the ever popular Wedge Salad (p.41). Chef keeps the tradition going with a few contemporary twists of his own.
For those who like to go straight to the entrée section, I can highly recommend the Spaghettini Spaghetti and Meatballs (p.49). Think Panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese creating crispy yet tender meatballs anyone from 1-100 will love. For something a bit lighter give the Carmelized Salmon (p.62) a try. You’ll thank me at first bite.
Veggie aficionados should order the Mac and Cheese (pg. 82- made with broccoli), the Peas and Feta (p.85) and the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sherry Vinaigrette (p.86). Each one is a stand alone star.
One final shout out as we head off to the recipe section. Chef Victor Avila is “the” magic in the kitchen. Having started out as a busboy at Spaghettini, he is what success looks like. He worked his way up the ranks and has been their executive chef for over twenty five years. Managing partners Hardwick and Sisneros are the first and loudest to tout his skill and dedication. “Spaghettini is a family that includes our dedicated and loyal employees.” “We wouldn’t be here without them – especially Chef Avila.”
Try a taste of this place and the wonderful cookbook by making this A-Maz-ing recipe, the Pommery Shrimp. There’s a reason it been on the menu since Spaghettini opened in June, 1988. Think light shrimp dish in a Mustard Pommery Sauce. It’s one of my favorites. When you see Chef Victor Avila next time, you can thank him for finding a way to make it gluten free.