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Alessandro Pirozzi's new pizza oven heats up Corona del Mar's dining scene.

Nutella and fresh fruit dessert pizza
Ed Olen

 The first thing you notice when visiting Pirozzi, Corona del Mar’s hip new eatery, is the crowd spilling out onto the East Coast Highway sidewalk. There’s no denying that on this busy weeknight Alessandro Pirozzi is the culinary king of Italian food in Orange County. The next thing that catches your eye once you walk through the door is the massive pizza oven.That’s fitting since this wood-burning oven is what makes Pirozzi’s food stand out from the other quaint eateries in the neighborhood. From margarita pizzas to 900-degree baked prime rib, it all comes together in this hand-made contraption.

The oven was constructed, brick by brick, in Alessandro’s hometown: Naples, Italy. He waited months for it, anticipating its arrival each day. Once he received it, Alessandro, as he’s referred to by his loyal followers, decided that it still needed more work. So he hand-tiled it – by himself. Well, he had some help. One other guy that works with him lent a hand. But that’s another reason why Pirozzi is so unique. The chef doesn’t just spend hours tweaking the menu. He also designs the décor and now spends almost all his waking hours at the restaurant. While some people work a lot, it’s evident that for now, Pirozzi is Alessandro’s life. He’s always here – chatting with customers, checking on orders, perfecting the dishes. And, with his attention to detail, the food definitely stands out.

A tomahawk steak garnished with cherry sauce might at first seem disgustingly sweet, in Alessandro’s hands; it becomes a taste revelation. While you expect the fruit to be cloying and syrupy, it instead takes on a savory tone. The seared beef is seasoned to bring out the wine-infused essence of the sauce, while the seasonal cauliflower and cipollini onion accoutrements lighten the dish. With the fresh garnishes, you don’t even miss not having a starchy side. But then, maybe that’s where the pizza comes into play.

The super authentic Naples-style pizza is reminiscent of the chef’s hometown. This is his comfort food. Simple and quick – the pizza cooks in mere seconds thanks to that imported oven – this Italian staple is the closest thing you can taste locally to the real thing.

Speaking of the chef’s comfort food, even the dessert menu harks to an Italophile’s dreams come true. A heart-shaped Nutella and fresh fruit pizza seems eye-rollingly cliché until you taste it. While most desserts that feature Nutella leave you longing for more, Alessandro’s version oozes with a thick layer of the addicting hazelnut and chocolate spread. The gelato, which is all made in house, also blends both American and Italian flavors. The chef’s favorite: cookies and cream gelato reminds you of the best ice cream from your childhood.

While the salads and hand-made pastas use seasonally fresh ingredients, they are often overlooked. The real draw is anything that emerges from that scorching oven. But, if you’re watching your carbs, Alessandro offers an alternative for those averse to gluten. With venison salami and other wild game charcuterie, the prosciutto and mozzarella bar is an ideal alternative. After glancing at nearby tables, the local favorite so far seems to be Pirozzi’s signature meatballs. 

While the crowd is boisterously loud, and the space is somewhat cramped, diners are consistently pleased with Alessandro’s food. It’s so good that people will dine here multiple nights a week. Hence the line. And, until the online ordering system launches, we’re stuck waiting with the rest of Orange County. The wooden “Pirozzilandia” sign that hangs on the wall sums it up best. This is Alessandro Pirrozi’s world and we’re all hungry to taste it.

Take a bite :: Pirozzi is located at 2929 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar.

:: pirozzicoronadelmar.com :: 949.675.2932

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