As part of this year’s Best New Restaurants cover feature, Orange Coast dining critic Gretchen Kurz spotlights some of the most memorable dishes she discovered this year while reporting the story.
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert on fine dining, despite my sterling record as an enthusiastic, lifelong omnivore. My role, typically, is limited to brown-bag lunches while approving payment for Kurz’s substantial restaurant tabs, and living vicariously through her as she goes about her rounds—even if reading her reviews and feature stories makes me a sought-after guest at many Orange County cocktail parties. When I do find the time to follow her lead, I’m never disappointed. And occasionally she directs me to something I can only describe as transcendent.
Which is why I want to tell you about Gemelli Ugo.
It’s not a chef, but a pasta. But then, that’s like calling Half Dome a rock. You’ll find the $22 dish on the menu at Pirozzi, Alessandro Pirozzi’s new place in Corona del Mar. The chef describes it thus: “Calabrian chile-infused pasta, braised Mediterranean octopus, bone marrow, organic baby kale, Barolo reduction sauce.” At least two of those ingredients sounded scary to me, but I’d had enough wine by then to order it anyway.
After that, I remember nothing except a seraphim choir and the blinding white light of culinary revelation.
That thrill of discovery, coupled with our enthusiasm for sharing such discoveries with you, is why we spend so much time and effort evaluating local restaurants, chefs, and dishes. It signals our hope that you, too, will someday hear the choir, see the light, and share our joy that Orange County’s culinary culture has emerged rather spectacularly from the shadow of L.A.