Pino Luongo, whose restaurant empire extends from New York to Chicago, Texas and the Caribbean, recently unveiled his first West Coast restaurant, Piccola Cucina, in South Coast Plaza. The eatery, on the second level between Nordstrom and Bullock's, is a regional Italian full-service restaurant that, like its namesakes in Dallas and Houston, offers an array of salads, vegetables, pizzas, meat and pasta specialties. Some examples: garganelli con ragu bianco (hand-rolled pasta with ground veal, prosciutto and white wine), and spit-roasted quail served with soft polenta and ciamotta. Lunch prices average $20 per person; dinners between $25 and $30. Luongo helped popularize regional Italian cuisine in the United States with such ventures as Le Madri (the Mothers) in Manhattan. His autobiographical cookbook, "A Tuscan in the Kitchen," is in its fifth printing. His Orange County restaurant, patterned after a Tuscan trattoria, is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and for dinner Monday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Brunch is served 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and till 6 p.m. Sundays. No reservations. Information: (714) 556-5844.
Friday, Dover's in the Doubletree Hotel will introduce a new menu with accents from the Pacific Rim, Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Americas. Lunch selections vary from an appetizer of house-cured veal bacon with sage-scented chicken sausage, Sonora grilled prawn, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic, to a smoked duck salad Szechuan with smoked noodles and Oriental vegetables to grilled pork rib chop Cubano marinated in lime juice and chilies and served with black bean sauce and corn cakes. Dinner brings, among other items, a salad of seared Oriental gravlax and watercress with soy and lime dressing; an open mixed seafood ravioli with shrimp, scallops and fresh fish, bouillabaisse broth and pesto; grilled pistachio-crust filet of beef with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and Barolla wine sauce. Luncheon prices average around $11; dinner house specialties, served with soup or Caesar salad, about $18. Dover's is open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; for dinner Tuesday through Saturday 6 to 10 p.m. The Doubletree Hotel is at 100 The City Drive, in Orange. Reservations: (714) 634-4500.