There are some things you have to travel to Italy to enjoy, and others, like this superb Italian restaurant in Long Beach, that are just down the road from home.
Every food lover’s bucket list should include a trip to Italy. The cuisine in this Mediterranean country is “twice blessed because it is the product of two arts, the art of cooking and the art of eating.” So says Marcella Hazan in “The Classic Italian Cookbook” and I couldn’t agree more. Italian food at its best is prepared with passion and eaten with gusto in the convivial company of good friends.
What’s that? A transatlantic flight to Italy isn’t in the cards this summer? What if I told you that you could drive to Naples from Los Angeles? That’s right, you can make the pilgrimage to the Naples Island neighborhood of Long Beach where you’ll discover the next best thing to really being there: an Italian idyll called Michael’s On Naples.
This classic Italian restaurant features an inspired, ingredient-driven menu bursting with seasonal flavors and an impeccably curated wine list showcasing 600 vintages, the majority from Italy. The interior is inviting and elegantly designed, from the intimate bar to the beautifully lit dining room. A short flight of stairs leads to a splendid rooftop terrace with alfresco lounge seating, a handsome outdoor fireplace and soft breezes gently blowing in from the Pacific.
The terrace is an ideal backdrop for the restaurant’s monthly wine tasting events, where you can leisurely sip a flight of wines and nibble on bold, cave-aged cheeses as the sun sets. I had the pleasure of tasting a lovely collection of wines from Poggio Al Tesoro, a vineyard in the prestigious area of Bolgheri, a premiere appellation situated in the upper part of Tuscany’s Maremma. My favorites were the Vermentino Solosole Toscana 2011, a refreshingly crisp and zesty white with pronounced minerality, and the Sondraia Bolgheri 2008, a lush and silky full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet.
Michael’s hosts a different winery on the first Tuesday of every month from 5:30–7:00 p.m. It is the perfect prelude to an unforgettable fine-dining experience.
Executive Chef David Coleman approaches the art of Italian cooking with confidence, originality and just the right degree of restraint. The emphasis is on nuance—a whisper of oregano, a touch of cream, a hint of lemon. A certain magic happens as aromatic herbs from his rooftop garden and Italian bacon slowly cook down with tomato and wine into a wonderful guanciale sauce that makes his Lasagna Verde alla Bolognese exceptional.
A simple preparation kissed with leeks and cream lets the sweet, buttery flavor of Maine lobster shine in the Risotto con Aragosta. Pillowy ravioli are generously stuffed with a rich, woodsy mix of wild mushrooms and finished with heavenly brown butter and lemon. His texture-perfect pastas are handmade, judiciously sauced ribbons of soul-satisfying goodness.
Complementing Coleman’s culinary artistry is General Manager and Sommelier, Massimo Aronne, whose path to Long Beach began in his native Italy with stints at the five-star Grand Hotel in San Remo and the celebrated Hotel Croce di Malta in Imperia. Talk about the art of hospitality—this man wraps you in its warmth like fine Italian cashmere. And he is a master at pairing just the right wine with your meal. The list is long (countless bottles of Amarone della Valpolicella, Brunello di Montalcino, Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo, Barolo and a spectacular selection of wines by the glass), but the wine experience at Michael’s On Naples is not complicated, nor is it intimidating, in Aronne’s capable hands.
Glance around the dining room full of lively conversation and you’ll see guests savoring every bite, smiles of contentment and expressions of “Is this heaven?” across their faces. This is the art of eating (although on my visit, it was more like the art of eating everything in sight).
It’s no surprise then, that in the last several months, Zagat has named Michael’s On Naples Ristorante the Best Italian Restaurant in Los Angeles, the No. 2 Overall Restaurant in Los Angeles and among the Top 25 Best Italian Restaurants in the United States. How many more reasons do you need? (Did I mention sinfully delicious homemade gelato and sorbet?) Jump on your Vespa and head to Naples Island already!
5620 East 2nd Street
Long Beach, CA 90803
Sunday – Thursday / 5pm – 10pm
Friday & Saturday / 5pm – 11pm
Copyright © Michelle Gigon / 2013 Singular Communications, LLC.