North Italia. Go.
If you lived or worked in the area back then, you may also recall when California Pizza Kitchen was a welcome addition to the culinary scene. Long located at Park Place on Michelson and Jamboree, CPK closed in 2014, and later opened a nice new location where El Cholo used to be.
Rising where CPK stood is North Italia, a chic and stylish restaurant that fits the evolving identity of Park Place. Luxury apartments and a boutique hotel are under construction to join the high-rise condo and office towers that now dwarf the former landmark some of us still think of as the Fluor Building. When it’s complete, the corner of Michelson and Jamboree will be one of modern Irvine’s important places to live, work and play—and North Italia fits right in.
With high ceilings, an open floor plan and huge windows letting in an abundance of natural light, North Italia feels a bit like a big city loft. It’s a stylish and sophisticated place, with perhaps the best looking crowd in the city. The servers are young, hip and exceedingly charming. And the food? It’s every bit as appealing as the place.
The pizzas are perfect for those who prefer the smaller, thin-in-the-middle Neopolitan style. Try The Pig ($17) if you like yours with some meaty heat (it has pepperoni, Italian sausage and soppressata) or the aromatic Funghi ($15) if you don’t.
Pastas are made fresh daily at the restaurant, and it shows. The Bolognese ($19), short rib radiatori ($21) and strozzapreti ($18) are all delicious with perfectly al dente pasta. We don’t mind paying $20 for plates of pasta when it’s good. We hate paying half that when it’s not. This is worth the splurge. As for the New York strip steak ($38), we suggest passing and instead paying $50 at Ruth’s Chris on the other side of the valet stand.
The kids’ menu includes spaghetti, which is enough for two smaller children to share. Order the red sauce on the side if the smaller set in your family prefer buttery noodles, but make sure they don’t try and charge you for it. Our server mistakenly did, but it was quickly taken off the bill. It was only a buck or so, but every penny counts. We’re saving up for the brunch, you see.
We haven’t made it in for breakfast as of yet, but when we do we’re ordering a Red Rooster (North Italia’s take on a Bloody Mary that includes the herbal Italian liqueur Averna Amaro), perhaps followed by the short rib hash.
North Italia, which opened in December, would have topped our “Best New Restaurant in Irvine” list for 2015. If this publication been around, that is. So far, nothing new we’ve tried yet this year tops it.
2957 Michelson Dr.