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    Chef Erik De Marchi’s Laguna restaurant is a hit. Now he’s bringing pizza to Irvine
    • December 20, 2023

    Five years after opening Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach — which secured critical acclaim and a loyal following for such dishes as rigatoni cacio e pepe and squid ink cappellacci, to name a few — chef Erik De Marchi has opened a spinoff in Irvine called Oliver’s Trattoria.

    Like he does at Osteria, De Marchi will stick to his making Emilia-Romagna food without kowtowing to any Americanization of his fare. “My menu focuses on that region and is truly authentic, nothing American-Italian about it,” he said.

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    While he respects Orange County’s abundance of Italian-American spots — classic red sauce joints, if you will — that wasn’t his goal with Osteria or the new Trattoria, which are both dedicated to the Italian northern region. “If people want that type of cuisine, it’s out there — just not at Oliver’s.”

    SEE ALSO: Best thing I ate: Different chef, same great cappellacci at Oliver’s Osteria

    Oliver’s Trattoria recently opened at the Quail Hill Shopping Center in Irvine, CA. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    In addition to a new locale, Oliver’s Trattoria — which opened Dec. 10 — differs from De Marchi’s Laguna Beach restaurant with a focus on wood-fired pizzas with crisp bottoms and blistered crusts. Nine pies appear on the inaugural menu, raging from the classic margarita (with cow’s milk mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, parmigiano and extra virgin olive oil; buffalo’s milk mozzarella can be added for an additional charge) and a prosciutto (24-month-aged prosciutto parma, mozzarella, yellow cherry tomatoes, basil, parmigiano) to a speck e funghi (smoked prosciutto, gorgonzola and mixed mushrooms) and pizza of the week based on whatever culinary vibe De Marchi feels.

    Also of note on the new menu is the panino con mortadella, a sandwich featuring house-baked bread, mortadella (the cold cut is having a star moment this year due, in part, to its millennial-pink hue and ascent of the charcuterie board), pistachios, burrata and arugula.

    Pasta, of course, is the other star of the show, like it is at Oliver’s Osteria. Guests at the Irvine eatery can look forward to tagliolini with clams, calamari and cherry tomatoes; linguine in a lemon cream sauce adorned with basil and parmigiano reggiano; pappardelle with oxtail and taleggio; and cacio e pepe, arguably the supreme of the four Roman pastas, which uses both pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano in the tricky emulsification process.

    Julio Iglesias makes a Limoncello spritz at Oliver’s Trattoria, which recently opened at the Quail Hill Shopping Center in Irvine, CA. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    De Marchi credits his grandmother as his biggest culinary influence. There’s even an ode to her inside Trattoria’s kitchen.

    “She has been a huge influence in my culinary career and, in fact, our pasta-making room in the restaurant has a tile that is very similar to the tile she had in her kitchen,” he explained. “That’s why I selected it; now she is with me at Oliver’s Trattoria.”

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    Diners can also look forward to a large space at Oliver’s Trattoria, with two outdoor patios, a full bar and a private dining room. There’s also a window that gives diners a peek inside the pasta-making action inside the kitchen.

    Oliver’s Trattoria opened inside the former Two Left Forks space in Irvine.

    Find it: 6511 Quail Hill St., Irvine

    ​ Orange County Register