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CARRYOUT : Gabbiano's Market, Deli Is Italian All Over

March 04, 1993|MAX JACOBSON

The idea of an Italian market doubling as a restaurant is solidly appealing. Gabbiano's in Laguna Niguel brings the concept off with shining colors--red, white and green to be exact.

The owners have nicely weaved the colors of the Italian flag into the market's motif. There is, for example, a bright red awning over the take-out deli counter, tables under a white trellis with forest green tablecloths and, to stretch a point, lots of white foods such as ricotta cheese and toothsome, homemade noodles.

The first thing one notices walking in is a cute cappuccino bar, where one can sit on stools and listen to such background music as Bobby Darin singing "Beyond the Sea" and other such stuff of Italian-American legend. But the food at Gabbiano's is actually quite a bit more ethnic than the music: thick red marinara sauce that would do any nonna (grandmother) proud, fresh baked pizza dough that ranks with any in the area and a full menu of appealing Italian specialties from panini sandwiches to veal picatta.

I recommend walking back to the market section to whet your appetite for some of the home-style Italian specialties you'll encounter later. Pass by stacks of packaged, imported pastas, enormous canisters of olive oil, foil-wrapped chocolates from Perugia and a refrigerator case of cheeses and casseroles.

Then head for the glass deli case and pick out a few salads to accompany a home lunch. Most of them are under $5 per pound. Bite into one of the market's piquant baby eggplants, stuffed with roasted sweet peppers. They bite back.

Foods at Gabbiano's are packed in either foil containers with paper tops or Styrofoam boxes, so don't worry about transport. Good breads are brought in fresh daily from Irvine's Il Fornaio, the dry salamis hanging over the counter are Molinari and a good number of the cold cuts come from the good Boar's Head company.

Our food was excellent. We started with a thick chicken rice soup and progressed to two panini sandwiches, a cold torpedo and a hot Italian sausage. The torpedo is huge, a combination of Italian cold cuts and cheeses on a crusty roll, but what makes it special is the optional addition of a light pesto sauce. The sausage is even better--long, skinny Romano links with thick marinara sauce on the same good roll. You can also buy the sausages uncooked from the deli case and cook them to taste.

Pizza lovers should try the distinctive Stromboli, a volcano of flavor. It's rolled pizza dough stuffed with any pizza topping you want, oozing sauce and cheese, glazed with garlic and butter. Buonissimo!

Linguine is chewy and tasty, made up fresh several times a day. Try some topped simply with juicy, chopped Roma tomatoes, basil and olive oil. It's a dish that travels well and tastes great.



30100 Town Center Drive, Laguna Niguel.

(714) 494-8686.

Open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

American Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted.

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