Il Garage is located at
11200 Beach Blvd., Stanton.
714.901.4400 :: ilgarageristorante.com
“Stan-what?” dinner guest asked.
“[Stan-tn],” I replied. “City in Orange County between Westminster and Anaheim when driving north on Beach Boulevard.”
This was important. This was the place we were going for dinner – a place for which our guest could have been forgiven for never having heard of it. In the Disneyland-Knott’s frenzy that surrounds the area, one would be excused for having driven right by the strings of motels and spin-off theme parks without so much as a cursory sideways glance, their single-minded focus bent on arriving as quickly as possible at The Happiest Place on Earth. And who can blame them? But had that person taken in a periphery view, they might have noticed something peculiar: a building in the Googie style of architecture, with olive trees out front and a sign proclaiming itself Park Ave.
It’s somewhat ironic that Park Ave’s Googie styling – a futuristic trend in architecture from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s that incorporated geometric shapes and Space Age-inspired designs – is now also home to Il Garage, chef-owner David Slay’s second restaurant on the same property. Il Garage is, in a way, the antithesis of the forward-looking Jetsons-esque Googie age where robots were expected to rule the world and food was supposed to materialize out of sterile machines, its consumers having never been anywhere near its earthly origins. Instead, Il Garage is all soil, plants and gardens, the restaurant itself set up inside of – you guessed it – an old garage converted into a
cozy, Italian-style dining room, complete with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths. Oh, and a tractor – which fits, considering the restaurant’s theme: the garden.
You can’t miss it; being led by the hostess through Park Ave’s dining room, past a large lawn and through a vine-covered entryway into Il Garage is the embodiment of the secret garden fantasy. Inside, every one of Il Garage’s tables points in the garden’s direction, which provides scenic gazing, but also, we imagine, is designed to encourage guests to think about where their dinner has come from. And in fact, almost all of the dishes on the menu do incorporate some of the produce grown on-site or from its Sage Ranch farm, from heirloom tomatoes to beets, lettuces and several herbs. Our squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta, lemon zest and fresh herbs were a rare treat that were lightly fried and ethereal in texture and taste. Burrata with pesto and warm cherry tomatoes was amplified in flavor, likely the result of homegrown basil and a guaranteed-ripe tomato, given that it was harvested entirely under Slay’s direction and timing.
Pasta dishes are no less rigorous, all being entirely homemade and painstakingly hand-shaped according to their type. Cappeletti (“little hats”) are served filled with boar ragù and dressed with pesto, while the standout, tagliatelle, are tossed with slow-braised pork, garden-fresh tomatoes, garlic, and hot peppers. On the sunnier side are the light-as-air porcini linguine with plump shrimp, a smattering of herbs and wine sauce.
We must issue a caution: Do not fall in love. You will anyway – we’re not naïve – but consider yourself warned: Il Garage changes its menu daily, so the homemade veal salsiccia with peppers and onions and olive sauce that you can’t stop thinking about and that you’ve dragged your friends and family in for may not be on the menu when you return. We know – it happened to us. The skirt steak with rosemary, garlic and olive oil, simple as it is, has no equal in the beef arena; and traditional Italian pollo al mattone (“chicken on a brick”) got a SoCal update with homegrown gremolata and charred pole beans. But, like the love-struck, forlorn realizations of teenager-dom, we have had to come to terms with the fact that we may never see each other again.
Then, channeling our mother’s wise words, which we can now appreciate, we remember: "There are plenty of other fish in the sea. And maybe (even probably) better ones.”
At the Table
Park Ave garden and Sage Ranch farm are moving into fall produce. Look for these homegrown ingredients on the menu: Thumbelina carrots, fennel, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, broccoli de Cicco, fingerling potatoes, arugula, tatsoi (spinach mustard), baby lettuces, beets, cipollini, and yellow onion.
Check the blackboard for the evening’s dessert options, ranging from panettone to torta di nonna to tiramisù and gelato. Honey is also new to the property; look for it in margaritas instead of agave nectar in Park Ave’s bar, or in desserts like honey ice cream with olive oil pound cake at Il Garage.
The Other Green Stuff
Antipasti: $10; Salads: $12; Pastas: $17; Main dishes of the day: $24-$30
Music to Your Ears
On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Il Garage offers a three-course dinner, which includes wine pairings, for $45. Live music plays in the background. The restaurant is closed on Monday.