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Orange County ITINERARY

The Race Is On

To Italy, that is, for a day of cars, capers and cuisine (in Tustin).


Did you say Marconi or macaroni? Ferrari or farfalle? Get Tuscan in Tustin! You can admire Dinos, Daytona Spiders and other classic Ferraris at Marconi Automotive Museum for Kids, then pick up fixings for a home-cooked Italian meal at Claro's, or race over to Caffe Piemonte, where garlic and Italian arias often fill the air.


Dick Marconi made his fortune in vitamins; he spends some of it on vintage sports cars, formula-racing cars and racing memorabilia as well as on children's charities. The two are not unrelated: Net proceeds from booking his museum as a special-events venue benefits those charities.

Marconi, and to a greater degree of success, his son, John, has raced vintage formula cars. Marconi finished eighth at the 1994 Long Beach Grand Prix, at age 59. The race shop adjacent the museum is fully operational.

The collection of more than 70 vehicles includes 18 Ferraris. Marconi's first Ferrari was a 1972 Dino. He also owns the 53rd car that Enzo Ferrari built, which is one of three 195S models made and one of two that still exist. It's hard to take your eyes off the 1973 canary-yellow Daytona Spider, custom ordered by Cher but never delivered because she was going through her divorce from Sonny Bono.

There's car art on the walls, a car on the wall and even art on a car: Every inch of a Latino boxing-themed Fiat is covered with boxing photos and magazine covers. There's a display of slot cars, and a model-car display that includes a Viper-Ferrari rear-end collision, "Exotic Mishap."

Among older life-size vehicles is a 1929 Ford Model A and 1937 fire engine. Rare makes include Bandini and Simplex. Top speeds are often listed for the cars, with a 1989 Lamborghini Countach and 1988 Ferrari F-40 topping the 200 mph mark; a sign next to the 1973 De Tomaso Pantera L cryptically notes "top speed unknown."

Marconi also owns the last formula racer Mario Andretti drove to victory, a '93 Lola T-9300 capable of 250 mph. Nearby is a larger-than-life horse sculpture made entirely from car bumpers.

Admission is $5. Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult.


All fired up to cook at home? Eating on the run? Planning a picnic? Make a pit stop at Claro's Italian Market.

Five-pound bags of fresh sausages (veal, garlic, mild or hot) are $7.89 per pound. In the deli case is an impressive array of cheeses: Domestic Gorgonzola is $5.59 per pound, an imported version about twice that; Finnish Lapp cheese is $6.59 per pound. Among three dozen salamis are imported Genoa ($7.79 per pound); bresaola (dry-cured beef) must be very good at $17.39 per pound.

The market also offers heat 'n' eat focaccia, frozen lasagnas, pastries, cookbooks and numerous vinegars and olive oils. The store also offers a complete catering menu. Among the to-go fare is a $2.99 meatball sandwich that's a knockout.


If you don't want to cook, just park it at Caffe Piemonte, which offers northern Italian cuisine prepared by chef Luigi Ravetto. Quality is high; so are prices: Entrees are $10 to $24. But you can get minestrone for $6 and grilled chicken panini (sandwiches) for $8, and the kitchen doesn't mind if you split dishes.

The restaurant opened in Orange 10 years ago, and reopened in Tustin in July.

Hot appetizers include Indivia al San Daniele (endive sauteed with pine nuts and smoked salmon in lemon sauce, $9). There are four versions of ravioli, the house specialty ($14-$18), and more than a dozen other pasta dishes ($10-$12, including a very colorful house salad). Desserts (most $5) include panna cotta (eggless custard) and bigne (eclair puffs).

The restaurant, according to the menu, accepts Visa, MasterCard


1) Marconi Automotive Museum

1302 Industrial Drive, (714) 258-3001.

8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday by appointment only.

2) Claro's Italian Market

1095 E. Main St., (714) 832-3081.

9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday, and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

3) Caffe Piemonte

498 E. 1st St., (714) 544-8072.

Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

Parking: There is free parking in lots at each location.

Buses: OCTA Bus No. 71 (Orange-Irvine) runs in Tustin along 1st Street and Newport Avenue, and, during weekday peak hours, along Bryan and Red Hill avenues. OCTA Bus No. 67 (Brea-Tustin) runs along Newport and Bryan avenues.

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