One of the main reasons as to why I dislike living in south OC: it’s a culinary wasteland. Most restaurants are chains, or very gringo, if not mediocre versions of ethnic cuisine. Nope, nothing really exciting in this Pleasantville-esque suburbia.
So, whenever I come home from work with no particular dinner plans, we’re stuck in a rut. We can always drive up to Costa Mesa or Irvine, to eat at our mainstays (Fukada? Again???), or sulk around the house and then give in to hunger by eating cup o’ noodles and carrot sticks. But this particular time, I stomped my feet and whined to Don that I wanted to try somewhere new in the neighborhood – so he busted out the Yelp app on his iPhone and found a decently reviewed place nearby: Piccolino Ristorante Pizzeria in Mission Viejo.
Piccolino’s is inside a sterile-looking shopping center in Mission Viejo, right by the toll roads. The clientele is mostly white, if not WASP, in their 30s to 40s, and most likely those who own a big house nearby – we were definitely out of place. And it’s definitely a neighborhood favorite, because we got there on a Wednesday night, 7 pm to be exact, and it was packed!
The wait was not too long, but any wait warrants booze. We ordered a 2003 Spadina Nero D’Avola (28), solely because the name sounded awesome (and it was Sicilian! That means it goes well with tomatoes, right?). Very tannic, with berry and pepper notes, and incredibly light… You can say that it’s a “summery” wine that’ll probably do well in a sangria, but drunk straight, it was definitely not my favorite.
The bread was meh, and came with some Greek-ish yogurt/ranch? sauce that we could not identify.
We ordered some Carpaccio de Manzo (12.95) for starters: very thinly sliced beef with a small mound of arugala, shaved parmesan cheese, capers, freshly ground black pepper and a healthy glob of olive oil. So good. Just think of it as beef sashimi.
I ordered Pappardella alla Bolognese con Polpette (13.95), because I can’t say no to Bolognese sauce. On the menu, it is described as “extra large ribbon pasta simmered in meat ragout, topped with meatballs”. The pasta was supple and fantastically toothsome, but I think the sauce was a little flat (but delicious, nonetheless). The meatballs were kinda grisly though.
Don ordered the Canneloni de Pollo (14.95), which was awfully bland. The canneloni was stuffed with ground chicken, and which Don described as tsukune-like. Tsukune belongs on the grill, not in pasta.
There was a hint of pesto in the dish, but not nearly enough to give it substantial flavor… so Don stole some of my pasta sauce and ate his canneloni with it.
For dessert, we had the creme brulee (sorry, no price). For some odd reason, the caramel layer was really salty and the custard was like vanilla pudding. I will have to say that this is the first custard dessert that I’ve disliked. Ever.
We have mixed feelings about Piccolino’s. The locals must love it because they serve familiar dishes as well as oven-fired pizzas, but their simplest dishes didn’t impress us much. Actually, I don’t see why the folks on OC Register love this place so much… For that money, I’d much rather gorge myself at Peppino’s where the flavors pop out and the environment is much more lively. But then again, that’s my opinion.
Piccolino Ristorante Pizzeria
28731 Los Alisos Blvd
Mission Viejo, CA 92692