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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

Franco On Melrose: Southern Italian in a Gardenlike Setting

We dined as a guest of the venue

Courtyard

Considering I live in San Clemente, it’s surprising just how often I find myself making the one and a half plus hour trek up to L.A. for one reason or another. I always look forward to these trips. And I especially enjoy when I discover a new restaurant to add to my roster of favorites, which is exactly what happened recently when I was invited to a media tasting hosted by Chef Franco De Dominicis at his charming Italian Trattoria, Franco on Melrose.

ChefFranco

Chef Franco opened Franco on Melrose in 2012 after working in such notables as The San Lorenzo Knightsbridge in London, Il Buco in Beverly Hills, Jonathan Club in Downtown Los Angeles, The Wilshire Grand Hotel and The Biltmore Hotel. He also served as Executive Chef of Conference and Catering for USC.

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived for our dinner because Franco on Melrose wasn’t even on my radar, which in hindsight is kind of surprising considering I am always on the hunt for good restaurants in that area. So what did I find? Almost out the gate the experience is unusual in that the kitchen is positioned in the front of the restaurant. This means you pass through the kitchen to get to the dining area itself. You literally are greeted by the chef as you walk through the door, lending a nice personal touch!

Mirrors2

Mirrors1

The dining area is set in a serene covered courtyard filled with vine covered walls and a few mirrors with strands of lights strung throughout creating an almost magical atmosphere. It’s a wonderful retreat for urbanites to escape to for a peaceful dinner. The ambiance alone, made me think instantly of grabbing my niece, a student at USC, for a getaway dinner. I am certain she will love it.

Chef Franco’s menu reflects his southern Italian roots with many dishes celebrating his former home on The Amalfi Coast and his love for locally grown and sourced ingredients. On this particular evening we feasted on an assortment of appetizers, salads, pastas and entrées inspired by classics from our chef’s native country including:

WinterSalad

Winter Salad. This classic tricolor blend of arugula, endive and radicchio has goat cheese and an added twist of spice infused poached beets. Rather than balsamic dressing, the salad is lightly dressed in an orange pomegranate dressing.

GrilledOctopus2

Spanish grilled octopus. I’m a big fan of grilled octopus and this was accompanied with crunchy potato, pickled Calabria peppers and lemon parsley vinaigrette. As delicious as it looks and sounds.

SquahsBlossoms

Fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with herb ricotta and served atop rustic basil tomato and black olive tapenade.

Burrata

Caprese salad of organic heirloom tomatoes, a luxuriously creamy “Di Stefano Burrata”, Genovese pesto and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Meatballs

Polpette. These tender pork and beef meat balls, are topped with tomato sauce, basil and parmesan. A classic.

Eggplant

Involtini. Baked eggplant rolled with ricotta.

Pastas

Paccheri with Creekstone Farm Slow Braised Oxtail Ragu, fava bean and parmigianno; Orecchiette with a broccoli rapini puree, pork sausage, Calabria pepper, winter peas, Parmaggianol; and Ravioli di Zucca. These little butternut squash stuffed raviolis are served in a creamy brown butter sage sauce. While all three pasta dishes were wonderful, the Raviolis were my favorite dish of the evening.

Branzino & Chicken

Herb Mediterranean Branzino with sautéed spinach, roasted Yukon potatoes, Castelveltrano olives and lemon reduction. This Branzino had a beautifully crisp skin and was my other favorite dish of the evening. It was served alongside Pollo Ripieno. Mary’s Farm Pan Roasted Chicken Breast, stuffed with spinach, apricots and plums, sauté Swiss chard, roasted potato, rosemary-roasted garlic sauce

PannaCotta

And for dessert. A vanilla bean panna cotta with fresh berries.

Overall a wonderful meal in a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere. What more could a person ask for? I can hardly wait to treat my niece to dinner here.

Franco on Melrose is open for dinner every evening and is located at 6919 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Reservations are accepted.

Franco On Melrose Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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