Apologies for the image quality of my later photos. Several members of our party got lost and arrived over an hour late. By time our food arrived, the light had completely faded. Out of respect for other diners, I don't use a flash, so I did the best I could with a nearby candle.
My little brother has submitted a t-shirt design to Threadless.com. If you can give him a hand and vote for him, I'd appreciate it. I wanna wear that tee!)
I love mom & pop restaurants. There's something about a family owned and operated eatery that expresses a warmth chain restaurants just can't convey. When the family in question takes pride in their establishment, it's a palpable emotion you can see in every place setting, feel in the air, and taste in your food.
Soprano's in Costa Mesa is an upscale Italian restaurant that somehow manages to combine the elegance and class of a fine dining establishment with the casual charm of a mom & pop operation. Tucked in the corner of a quiet residential neighborhood, it's incongruously placed next to a coin-operated laundromat. Once again, good food can be found in surprising locations.
The interior is a cozy affair, almost exclusively filled with locals in everyday attire. You don't see advertisements for it and it's not visible from any major thoroughfare. If you know about Soprano's, chances are you live nearby, you heard about it from someone who lives nearby, or both.
(Complimentary focaccia with an olive aioli spread.)
The obscurity is probably for the best. The food is so good, and Soprano's is so small, I don't want to make it any harder than it already is to get a table. This is one of my secret happy spots, and my favorite restaurant for Italian-American fare.
(BBlade, our own Chicago gangsta.)
In fact, the desperate pleas of an old iaido friend (second picture in the link, upper right) for a spot to host a last-minute reunion dinner was the only reason I shared Soprano's with him. I don't even tell friends about it. That's how much I love this place.
Can you blame me, with such luscious offerings as this Penne ala Vodka? Plump shrimp peep up through a springy forest of cylindrical noodles coated in a creamy vodka marinara. The pastas at Soprano's are always perfectly al dente and coated in robustly flavored, ethereal sauces.
Then there's the Lamb Shank, a ruggedly simple name for a simple and rugged dish. Two large, bone-in lamb shanks are braised in red wine and spices until the meat coyly slips apart at the brush of a fork. Each bite is coated with the gelatin-thickened gravy. Sides of sautéed fresh vegetables and fettuccini in marinara sauce are almost an afterthought, yet the vegetables are tender and the pasta is skillfully prepared. It's a wonderful dish when you're in a meat and potatoes mood.
However, the undisputed champion is Soprano's Cioppino, a massive tureen of fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, mussels, and other seafood frolicking in a savory sea of white wine, tomatoes, and herbs. Hiding just underneath the rippling surface, like the coiled tentacles of the mythic kraken, lies a generous mound of linguine cooked right in the flavorful stew. It's large enough for two people or one hungry panda.
(Balsamic vinegar and olive oil smiley face.)
So why am I choosing now to reveal to you the path to this palace of gastronomic delight? Because we're in a recession and our small businesses need all the help they can get. Now that I've made this supreme sacrifice, you're all honor-bound to eat at Soprano's. ... What, you're still here? Get moving!
Soprano's - A mom & pop Italian restaurant with the class of a high-end eatery and the soul of a neighborhood joint. I can't believe I told you guys about it!
Penne ala Vodka - 1595
Lamb Shank - 17.95
Cioppino - 21.95
2400 Newport Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627