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.
Four Orange County restaurants received the highest Circle of Fame awards from the California Restaurant Writers Assn. Honored at the association's recent banquet at the Stouffer Concourse Hotel in Los Angeles were Antoine in the Le Meridien Hotel, Newport Beach; Antonello Ristorante, Santa Ana; The Dining Room, Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, and Pavilion in the Four Seasons Hotel, Newport Beach.
This month's International Night at Monique, scheduled for Tuesday, will focus on the foods of northern Italy. Risotto con tartufi (truffled risotto with Parma ham), free-range breast of pheasant with mushrooms and brandy, and wild Virginia striped bass with artichoke, basil and tomatoes will highlight the menu. The cost is $28 per person, plus tax and gratuity; the event will run from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monique is at 31727 Coast Highway, South Laguna. Reservations: (714) 499-5359.
Tutto Mare will salute the wines of Ruffino, a winery situated just outside Florence, Italy, at a special dinner on Monday.. Six courses will include crepes stuffed with sea bass and served with red and yellow bell pepper sauces, and rack of lamb with black truffles and sausage served on a bed of wild mushrooms. The cost is $62 per person for dinner and wines; tax and gratuity are extra. The restaurant is at Newport Center Fashion Island, Newport Beach. Reservations: (714) 640-6333.
Horikawa now has a happy hour on Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres vary from yakitori and shrimp tempura to California rolls and chicken teriyaki. House specialty drinks include Japanese Mai Tais and Scorpions. The restaurant is in South Coast Plaza Village, Sunflower Avenue and Plaza Drive, Santa Ana. (714) 557-2531.
The Single Gourmet dine-out group will meet for dinner at Horikawa in South Coast Plaza Village next Thursday, April 16; at Sorrento Grille in Laguna Beach on Wednesday, April 22; at Sombrero Street in Santa Ana on Tuesday, Cinco de Mayo (May 5). The April 16 event will start with a social at 6:30 p.m., with the dinner at 7:15. The prices for the events, which are open to non-members if there is room, range from $29 to $39. Information: (714) 854-6552.