Destination dining in Dana Point inspired by the authentic cuisine, tradition and charm of Venice, Italy
For a unrivaled dining experience derived from years of education, a passion for preparing delicious, authentic dishes from the freshest ingredients and a dedication to stellar customer service where the owners and staff make you feel like a personal guest in their home, look no farther than Casanova Ristorante.
Owner Chris Lagaris and General Manager Stefano Xenos have clearly - pardon the pun - discovered the recipe for success in the Southern California restaurant industry. The cousins have been working together for half a century, having owned an operated 27 dining establishments together, including the landmark Maxwell’s By The Sea in Huntington Beach. Lagaris and Xenos take particular pride in giving back to the community by supporting a number of local charitable organizations such as the Ark of San Juan, Dana Hills High School, New Vista School, Pet Protect Foundation, the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment and the Boys and Girls Club of Capistrano Valley.
“There are three key ingredients to having a successful restaurant,” says Xenos. “The most important is that the restaurant must be clean from back to front, food handling and food quality is paramount and the chefs’ knowledge of the cuisine, flavors and pairings, and attention to presentation all contribute to our customers’ experience.”
Having said that, I can happily attest that literally everything my husband and I have tried on the menu has been nothing short of superb. The service is excellent – attentive and unobtrusive – the ambiance is warm and friendly and its popular cocktail lounge featuring specially selected wine list (and full bar) has a loyal following among locals and visitors alike.
Start with the Mozzarella Caprese, which arrives with slices of fresh tomato topped with creamy buffalo mozzarella cheese and basil and served with virgin olive oil. Another popular pick is the antipasto misto made up of a selection of cured meats and complementary cheeses and my personal fave: the Carpaccio al Salmone defined by crisp romaine, capers, radicchio topped with smoked salmon, lemon and olive oil.
For the main course, Tim’s favorite dishes include the “Pink Lady Fettuccine” made with chicken and sundried tomatoes tossed in a creamy Alfredo sauce and a flavorful Rigatoni Mamma Rosa with Italian sausage and mushrooms in a tomato sauce with a touch of cream. My favorites include the Lasagne al Forno which arrives with layers of perfectly al dente pasta, ricotta cheese and meat sauce baked with mozzarella cheese.
A seafood aficionado? Options abound – ranging from the Linguini Vongole Veraci (long, flat pasta with baby Manila clams sautéed in a white wine sauce) and Farfalle al Salmone (bowtie pasta with smoked salmon tossed in a cream and tomato sauce with a touch of vodka) to the Linguini alla Pescatora (long, flat pasta with fresh fish of the day, shrimp, calamari, mussels and clams in a light tomato sauce.
Portions are generous, but if you’ve saved room for a little something sweet … try the crème brulee with its perfectly carmelized top or the homemade tiramisu, a traditional favorite or an equally delicious warm chocolate cake accompanied by vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce.
Casanova Ristorante is located at 33585 Del Obispo St. in Dana Point (at the corner of Stonehill). For information or reservations, call 949.496.0992 or visit www.casanovaristorante.com