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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Aldo's Treats Customers Like Family

February 06, 1992|AMY McCURDY

Aldo's Italian Restaurant has the slight misfortune of being in a rather forgettable location. Nestled in a corporate complex on a nondescript portion of Lake Forest Drive, it's the kind of place that you might easily speed past without a second glance. But if you take the time to stop for lunch or dinner, you'll be richly rewarded with a special Italian warmth and food you won't forget.

Upon entering the establishment, you'll most likely be greeted by a smiling, pixieish Rosa Weiss, the same woman responsible for Aldo's homemade sauces and desserts. The Brazilian-born Weiss has a hand in just about everything here; she's even been known to make the ravioli--"one at a time," says owner Aldo Miele.

Miele, who hails from Rome, says the key to the restaurant's success is simply "good service, good food and good atmosphere."

Customers are treated like family, so it's no wonder that the help know most of them by name. Hugging and kissing are about as abundant here as the portions.

Those portions are probably one of the main reasons Aldo's is packed every day at lunchtime (with the majority of the noon crowd coming from the Irvine Spectrum area), and the evenings are always bustling--even Mondays and other so-called "off" nights.

The place has been so successful in the 3 1/2 years since it opened that Miele took over the bridal shop next door to expand last year--mainly to accommodate the growing lunch crowd.

Bread, pasta and desserts are made to order. Aldo's is famous for its Calamari Fritti appetizer, which is not only non-greasy, but comes in huge portions (a half-order is sufficient for two people). The calamari is served with a zesty marinara sauce called Arrabiata, made with fresh herbs, peppers, garlic and tomatoes.

The most popular entree is the Osso Buco (veal shank), a savory dish that's available only if Miele can get the meat fresh, he says, and goes fast when it's on the menu. (Too fast for us, in fact. We can't describe it because we couldn't get it.)

Other recommended selections include: Pasta a l'Arrabiata, a spicy, tangy marinara dish; the gourmet pizza, which melts in your mouth and is great with a fresh garlic topping; any of the eggplant dishes, and the manicotti. Especially tasty is the gnocchi, which can be ordered with Aldo's special sauce--a delicious concoction of cream, bacon, peas and mushrooms--on request. That's another generous feature of Aldo's: the chef welcomes special requests.

Aldo's is also one of those places where the prices won't give you indigestion. Entrees range from $6.45 to $14.95.

Aldo's Italian Restaurant, 22741 Lambert Road, El Toro. Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m. (714) 472-2272.

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