Modo Mio Cucina Rustica has been around for quite a while, and I think the reason is that the food is tasty, the portions are generous and the prices are reasonable. The attractive space has the feel of a modern trattoria in Italy with an open kitchen, arched alcoves, light tan walls and wood accents.
We sat in cozy alcove with big windows overlooking the parking lot and a distant view of the ocean. As we perused the menu and nibbled on some crusty bread, our waiter arrived with a complimentary plate of sliced white mushrooms drizzled with a little olive oil, lemon juice and parsley. They were quite delicious, exemplifying what we like best about Italian food, fresh ingredients served simply.
I am a lover of octopus and squid in any form. Modo Mio offered a slightly different presentation than any I have had before. Guazzetto di calamaretti had rounds and tentacles of squid in a tomato sauce that was like a thick soup. The squid was fairly tender but still just a bit chewy. The sauce/soup was full of flavor, with lots of garlic, black olives and capers. Good crusty bread was great for mopping up the last drop of the delicious sauce.
The restaurant's insalata all'Italiana could have been a meal by itself. This chopped salad had romaine, prosciutto, provolone, salame, mortadella and white mushrooms tossed in ltalian dressing. The ingredients were good, but the salad was so finely chopped that they could not be distinguished and soon became boring.
We also tried mosaico di pepperoni, another salad. We liked this one better. It had slices of red, yellow and green roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and two wedges of artichoke hearts in a flavorful vinaigrette. It was a nice combination of textures and flavors, with each being distinct.
A very refreshing salad was the one with arugula, endive, oranges, mozzarella and pine nuts. Peppery arugula, crunchy endive and sweet orange segments were off set by the smooth, creamy cheese and a bit of sweetness from the nuts. The mélange was dressed lightly in a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
There are several choices for ravioli, or you can get the three-ravioli special and have a sampler. The traditional cheese pillows were smothered in a delicious creamy, sweet tomato sauce but, unfortunately, the pasta was overcooked.
Mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and basil seasoned the chicken ravioli. This one was more al dente, but the chicken was like a puree. Chicken appeared again, this time with spinach, in a chunky tomato sauce with a just hint of spice. It could have used more.
Tagliatelle al prosciutto e piselli was a lovely flat pasta, cooked to a perfect al dente texture and served in a very tasty, buttery white wine sauce, redolent with garlic. The generous amount of very good prosciutto and fresh peas was the final complement to this excellent dish.
Scallopine alla griglia featured a large piece of veal, pounded very thin and then breaded and fried. It was so thin that it was hard to get any taste from the meat. All of the flavor came from the sautéed onions and portobello mushrooms.
The side vegetables, carrots, broccoli and zucchini were well-cooked and delicious, but the little potato wedge was bland.
We were disappointed with the apple tart because it had obviously been made sometime before and refrigerated, then reheated before serving. The pie was quite cold in places and warm in a few others. The parts of the crust that were well-cooked were good, but most of the rest was underdone. The apples were sweet but very soft.
This local Italian restaurant has some very good food and some average food, but the prices are reasonable and the portions more than generous. Overall, it is a pleasant dining experience.
TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at email@example.com.
Modo Mio Cucina Rustica
Where: 7946 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach
When: Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily; dinner from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Appetizers: $5 to $12
Entrées: $9 to $32
Desserts: $5.50 to $7
Bottles: $28 to $130
By the glass: $7 to $20
Corkage fee: $18 (free Monday through Wednesday)
Information: (949) 497-9770 or modomiocucinarustica.com