There must be at least a dozen ways to get to Lou Gaudio's Health Club & Day Spa in Dana Point. Most customers come by car, of course, but others arrive by mountain bike, by foot or by hotel van. Then there's Gaudio's way: by Harley.
But if you're going for a massage, there really is only one perfect way to get there--and especially to get home when the kneading's done.
C'mon, you're pampering yourself anyway, why not go for the day spa full Monty? Besides, once you're all soothed and relaxed and jelly-legged, do you really want to get back behind the wheel, where tension awaits?
For a $40 add-on, Gaudio's will pick you up in stretch-black comfort and take you away from it all. The club's range of facilities--from weight and workout areas to hair and nail salon and especially spa treatment rooms--allows you to stretch things out for most of the day. Or at least as long as your cash and your capacity for self-indulgence hold out.
Extend your stay with lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants in the Pavilion Center and it's easy to start wondering why Dana Point visitors even bother with trips to the beach or the harbor.
Ahhh, There's the Rub
The first thing you notice about Lou Gaudio's Health Club & Day Spa (24941 Dana Point Harbor Drive,  661-9448) is that he gets a really good parking space. His Harley-Davidson is parked next to the front counter.
Actually, that's the second thing. The first is the limousine out front. It lets you know this is a place you can go in style, if you want. It also says that Gaudio has come a fair distance from his early days as a personal trainer at other people's gyms.
Gaudio cut his training teeth at Vince Gironda's Studio City gym, which was famous for its dark, dank setting and its A-list of celebrity clients. Gaudio went the air-conditioned, well-lighted route when he opened his first Dana Point club 18 years ago.
That one was 750 square feet--"about the size of my spinning room now," Guadio said. The current club and spa, opened three years ago, has 12,000 square feet, 800 members and more than 30 personal trainers. Day visitors pay $10.
Upstairs are the usual aerobic and weight-training machines, and one Gaudio invented--it's called the Pole Dancer and enables users to do squats, working their legs, hips and behind, without putting heavy weights on their shoulders.
"I have high hopes for this," he said.
The spa and salon seemed like a natural extension for people out to look and feel better. The salon takes the place of a juice bar, which never really caught on, while the spa is taking on a life of its own. It has expanded to include everything from a 20-minute scalp massage ($25) to a 20-treatment endermologie package that users claim fights cellulite ($1,400). A full body massage is $65 for an hour, a spa facial $130 for 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Or try the Vichy treatment (1 hour, $75). You lie on a massage table in a specially designed wet room. Then you get a body polish and pressure-point massage.
Spa manager Denise O'Brien said that after such a treatment, she's too relaxed to drive home. "And I only live a couple of minutes away."
That's where the limo comes in.
Health club hours are Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The spa is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
After spending so much spa time indoors, it's nice to step out for some al fresco dining. Luckily, just steps away is Ristorante Ferrantelli (25001 Dana Point Harbor Drive,  493-1401).
The restaurant, named for an eatery in Rome, opened in Dana Point in 1982, but a new patio area was christened July 22. It overlooks a rose garden and, if you peer past the traffic on Dana Point Harbor Drive and the guy who jogs with a parrot on his shoulder, you can see the harbor.
Soon, you'll also see statues, a three-tier fountain and a fire pit, host Roberto Pellecchia said. The added touches are expected to be finished by Aug. 24, when Ferrantelli will host the first of its bimonthly outdoor dinners. For $65 per person, diners will get a five-course meal with wine.
The patio is also a perfect place to enjoy selections from the cigar and cognac cart, which features 40 varieties of cognac and scotch and up to 13 kinds of cigars.
The menu highlights southern Italian cooking, with lots of veal and seafood dishes. On a recent weekday, a lunch special was a flaky salmon fillet with a tasty glaze of orange, Grand Marnier and brown sugar ($14.95).
Also recommended: the Grigliata Mista (chicken breast, lamb chops, Italian sausage and pork chop charbroiled Italian style, $14.95).
Ferrantelli is open for lunch daily, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner is 5 to 10 p.m.
A Taste of Tokyo
If you're around late enough for dinner, another winning choice is Yama Japanese Teppan House (24961 Dana Point Harbor Drive,  240-6610), which serves 5 to 10 p.m. daily except Friday and Saturday, when it's open till 11.