Frazzled after a day on the fast track? Try a glass of Chianti Classico or a Sambuca Romana at Prego, a restaurant that has one of the liveliest bars around.
It's a stone's throw from John Wayne Airport; you can spot it by its salmon-colored roof, nestled at the base of the Koll building at Von Karman Avenue and Michelson Drive.
On slow nights, there's a friendly purr in Prego's bar. On busy nights, it's downright noisy in a peppy, cheerful way. There are several tables to maneuver around, usually with chairs all awry--easy to grab if you get comfortable enough to want to cut in on an interesting conversation. Or you can sit up at the bar itself and get advice on wines from John Dunn or any of the other friendly bartenders. On warm summer nights, you have the added option of sitting outside on the patio, where there's jazz on Thursdays and Fridays and chamber music on Saturdays starting at 6:30.
Good wines can be bought by the glass, starting with a modest Lanciola Chianti for $4.25 or Sauvignon Blanc Silvarado for $4. If you get hungry, you can order anything from the restaurant menu. There are lots of appetizers, but the best is focaccia, a sort of Italian quesadilla. The tastiest pizza: alla salsiccia with tasty bits of sausage and pepperoni. All told, this may be the best yuppie/muppie (for "middle-aged") bar around here.
Prego, 18420 Von Karman Ave., Irvine. Open Sundays till 10 p.m., Mondays till 10:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays till 11 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays till midnight. (714) 553-1333.