YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

| Sunday Brunch

No Hassle, but No Frills

Louise's Trattoria Will Shine When Its Food Matches Its View


If you've ever tried to find a Sunday brunch spot with an ocean view without having to wait an hour for a table, you know how difficult this task can be. And if you're also looking for convenient parking, this task becomes almost impossible.

Yes, something about a cool ocean breeze and tranquil Pacific views makes brunch a whole lot nicer. But the sheer annoyance of the beach-side bustle, especially during the summer, turns what should be a universal right for Orange County residents into a teeth-grinding nightmare.

Most of the time, it's not worth the effort.

But I've found a place across the street from the Huntington Beach Pier where the parking is easy and a second-story patio table with the beach panorama is almost always available. And the buffet brunch here is $14.95.

Louise's Trattoria is a stylish Italian restaurant in the Pierside Pavilion building. Now, you don't usually equate Italian food with brunch, but Louise's offers a buffet spread to capitalize on its "most excellent" location.

But there is a catch--don't expect a regal spread with fresh shellfish, a prime rib carving station and 14 types of salad as you would find at the Ritz-Carlton. Louise's humble buffet features the bedrock basics--potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon and an omelet station--with a few additional culinary touches to separate its offerings from, say, those at a Holiday Inn in Ontario.


My brunch group arrived at noon, finding the restaurant nearly empty inside but bustling on the wind-swept patio. Luckily, there were a couple of patio tables available.

Our server detailed the brunch rules and took our drink orders, and we spent the next 15 minutes reveling in watching the beach scene below us--prop planes flying by festooned with advertisements, a powerboat race roaring north, scores of surfers catching breakers by the pier. It was Surf City in all its summer glory.

Then we hit the buffet. Like most dish-and-dash buffets, the one at Louise's suffered from neglect. The link sausages were dry, the bacon limp. The potatoes were a bit too gooey, and the scrambled eggs--despite being served in festive red tortilla cups and topped with salsa--were cold and bland. And the blueberry and cheese blintzes were burned.

But the omelet station offered the promise of fresh fare, and while the ingredients were pretty basic--ham, onion and the like--the omelet maker expertly whipped up his specialty with an extra sprinkling of grated cheese.

Moving beyond these breakfast basics, things do get better. At one station were grilled chicken medallions in a cacciatore sauce, carne asada in a tomatoey salsa, salmon in rosemary cream sauce and grilled swordfish in a pesto cream sauce. These dishes represented the culinary high point.

The chicken cacciatore was subtle in flavor and accompanied by white beans, but the carne asada was nearly jerky-tough, despite having a flavorful salsa dressing. I really liked the swordfish and the salmon, both cooked nicely and featuring tasty sauces.

Included in the price is free-flowing orange juice and champagne. And as we sipped fresh OJ after our main-course feasting, we contemplated dessert. The pickings are a bit thin, with scones, Danishes, cookies and fresh fruit.

I loaded up on the wonderful cheese Danishes and sliced melons and started to list what Louise's buffet lacked: carving stations of prime rib, roast beef or turkey; a wide and interesting salad selection (they featured only one basic salad and a nice Italian beef salad); and an array of desserts, such as flan, creme bru^lee or even ice cream. And because this is an Italian restaurant, why not frittatas?

Based on the ease of finding a patio seat overlooking the ocean, Louise's seems to be somewhat of an unknown brunch destination. Though they can never go wrong with such a perfect beach view, Louise's may want to consider improving its brunch offerings, both in quality and diversity, because a view like this deserves food of distinction.


Louise's Trattoria, 300 Pacific Coast Highway, No. 202, in the Pierside Pavilion Building, Huntington Beach. (714) 960-0996. Sunday brunch is served from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Cost: $14.95; $5.95 for children under 6.

Los Angeles Times Articles