Friday, May 8, 2009

Pizzeria Ortica - Costa Mesa

You should not go into Pizzeria Ortica with the service expectation bar set too high, but you should go for the yummy food. That's not to say that the service is horrible; the staff is friendly, happy to help, and we love that they all wore brown Converse All-Stars. It's just that if you want a particular wine with a particular course, the timing might be off. Or maybe it bothers you when they "auction off" the food at the table... "Who had the margherita pizza?" Or maybe even you'd rather have your empty plates cleared off the table before the new course arrives. Just be prepared for things like this, and it'll save some potential angst so you can focus on the tastes of Pizzeria Ortica.

Our table was a two-top next to the window looking out on Anton Street. The restaurant is basically one long strip with one aisle and tables on both sides. We were greeted by a member of the staff and asked if we'd like some sparkling or still water. No thank you, it's just regular ole ice water for us. Dear Ben ordered an amber beer too, while I ordered a watermelon puree proscecco appertivi. It smelled exactly like watermelon, but lacked any kind of intense flavor.

The appetizer list looked ... well, appetizing. It was my favorite aspect of their menu. We picked two: the roasted squash with fried sage and sweet red wine vinegar and the smoked halibut with green tomato and bread salad. Both appetizers were served on the same plate, and the presentation was pleasing. I like to eat one thing at a time - I'm not a food mixer - and I was glad I started with the smokey flavor of the fish. The green tomato added a certain zingy-ness to the the bread salad. It was a familiar flavor, though I can't really say where I know it from. I also enjoyed the squash: such a soft, sweet texture. Good complimentary combo.

Merluzzo affumicato con panzanella
Zucca in agrodolce

The pasta course came too quickly following the appetizers. The restaurant advertises the use of local eggs and flour from Northern California. So, yes, the pasta was clearly fresh and obviously homemade. I had the pear and pecorino tortelli with brown butter and sage. The waitress recommended this one, and it seemed interesting enough to try. I was glad I did. The round pillows weren't overstuffed, so the cheese wasn't overpowering. The sage was an appreciated touch. Seems like they use sage on several dishes the way Mozza uses rosemary. Dear Ben had the burrata ravioli with tomato and basil. It tasted exactly like you'd think, except I was hoping for more burrata than was given. It's hard to beat that creamy mozzarella, and I wanted more in this dish! We both agreed the the tortelli was the better dish of the two.
Ravioli di burrata & Tortelli di pere e pecorino

We passed on the main dish and went for two pizzas. I really wanted to order all of them... for the sake of writing, of course... but even I realize that might be overdoing it a bit (I know! Who knew I could admit such a thing!). I love the pizza with the egg cracked on top at Mozza, so naturally I gravitated towards the Milanesa: fontina, Parmesan, asparagus, and a fried egg. When it arrived, I broke into the fried egg to let the yolk get happy on my slices. I pushed the white aside, it's just not my favorite (although the leftovers made for the perfect breakfast pizza for dear Ben.) Dear Ben's choice was the better of the two. He had the pancetta, ricotta, scallion, and fennel pollen pizza. Absolutely perfect. The salty pork belly, the dollops of fresh ricotta, and the ribbons of scallion yielded the perfect combination of texture and flavor. I would order this pizza again.
Milanesa Pizza & Pancetta ricotta e cipollotto

The menu really should say, "Fries."

It was getting late by the time we had eaten a slice of each pizza and some potatoes (they're really just hand-cut fries... nothing too special to write about). Although the dessert menu actually looked pretty good, I needed to end the night on a high note with a more festive atmosphere. We decided to head across the street to Mastro's for a cocktail in the bar. I do hope to get back over to Pizzeria Ortica again soon though. Next time I won't expect too much from a service perspective, and simply enjoy some good pizza flavors.

... and those are my Notes from the Napkin!

Pizzeria Ortica
650 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Pizzeria Ortica on Urbanspoon

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