Like to have lots of room to stretch out at a bar? Maybe even a spare seat for your shopping bag? Utterly hassle-free environment if you're a woman? Reasonable approximations of dinner to keep hunger pangs away? If this sounds appealing, the bar at Birraporetti's restaurant in South Coast Plaza is just for you.
The great empty spaces seem to hold sway from around 7 p.m. or so--after the low-key bustle of the after-work crowd from nearby offices--until young bar and restaurant workers checking out of local eateries reportedly start raising a ruckus around 11 p.m.
Bartenders are young and friendly at this gleaming, upscale watering hole; they only get snippy if you pull up a stool at the "well," where the waiters scurry up with diners' drink orders.
If you're alone or with a pal and would rather not bother with a table in the restaurant proper, the bar is a good place to tuck into items from the appetizer menu (from $3.50 for minestrone to $7.95 for grilled chicken almond salad). I usually order the individual pizza with grilled eggplant and tomato, but the primo choice is probably linguine with pesto--if you like pesto. (If you do, ask for extra on the side.)
Birraporetti's does seem to attract a somewhat cosmopolitan clientele--there usually seem to be a fair number of men (invariably married) who hail from places far from the balmy shores of O.C. People are as likely to be in athletic clothes as suits and ties, and they appear to represent a generous cross-section of economic and ethnic groups.
But for anyone whose idea of a bar is to jockey for room along with lots of vivacious, talkative people, and maybe wind up trading a political insight or two with a total stranger, well . . . have you thought of moving to Chicago?
The bar at Birraporetti's restaurant in South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa (accessible from the parking lot near Sears). Open from 11 a.m. daily. Last call is 1:30 a.m. (714) 860-9090.