A Tale of Two Restaurant Openings

By DIANE ARMITAGE

Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited to two Laguna-related restaurant “soft openings” on the same night.

Now, “soft openings” can be any of a number of events for a new restaurant just readying to open its doors to the public, which proved to be the case last Thursday. 

Chef Ryan’s Parallel Pizzeria

My first restaurant opening of the evening was in Dana Point at Chef Ryan Adams’ new concept restaurant, Parallel Pizzeria.

Chef Ryan is a longtime success story here in Laguna Beach with Three Seventy Common Kitchen + Drink, so I knew I was in for a treat. Truly one of our most talented chefs in Laguna Beach, Chef Ryan is incapable of making anything ordinary, even if it’s pizza. 

I showed up to an almost-empty restaurant except for Chef Ryan, his impeccable PR agent, Marguarite, kitchen and serving staff, and a single 10-top table filled with the area’s top food columnists. It was like a family reunion seeing all my foodie buddies there. 

LB Best parallel

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Chef Ryan Adams with his pizzeria staff

In minutes, Chef Ryan and team were off and running with plate after plate of fabulous fare. His “Parallel” concept is only about the East Coast’s New Haven, Connecticut-inspired pie meeting the West Coast of fresh, organic flavors.

In Ryan’s opinion, no one makes pizza better than this mid-size coastal city on Long Island’s Sound. 

No Parallel in Pie Research, Either

Not unexpectedly, Chef Ryan did his usual intricate research, even having the New Haven water tested, then shipped in the exact same level of minerals to enhance his SoCal water here.

Why? 

To create the perfect New Haven pizza crust, of course. 

From his West Coast pear and gorgonzola-based salad to his East Coast chopped salad, and from a classic East Coast Clam Pie to the West Coast-based Killer Dana Pie, it is truly a heavenly mash-up of the best of two worlds. 

LB Best pizza

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Parallel Pizzeria’s Killer Dana Pie with Italian chicken sausage, sweet peppers and cilantro pesto

For the sake of brevity here, I have a full review of Parallel Pizzeria in my blog, Tge Best of Laguna Beach at www.LagunaBeachBest.com.

Parallel Pizzeria opens today, Friday, June 1 and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It sits in “The Row,” right on Coast Highway by Chronic Tacos and Subway at 34255 Pacific Coast Highway.

Central Peruvian is Back (With a Bang)

I scooted from Parallel Pizzeria to my second restaurant “soft” opening at Central, our re-opening Peruvian restaurant on Forest Avenue.

As you may recall, Central experienced a devastating kitchen fire on December 29.

Thankfully, no one was hurt in the unexpected blaze, but they experienced a crushing $350,000 loss that included $20,000 in wine. 

While Central Partners Anna Montoya and Taylor McKinney hoped to be open in February, they were finally able to celebrate their soon-to-open status last Thursday, May 24. 

I arrived about a half hour after the party had begun, parked on a side street and half-mindedly noticed a roar of some sort of crowd as I began my short trek to Central’s front doors. As I turned the corner, I realized the roar was emanating from none other than Central itself. The place was absolutely packed with well-wishers, from the outdoor patio to the walls hugging the bathrooms at the restaurant’s very back. 

Taylor was manning the front with a couple of darling (but overwhelmed) hostesses and offered me a welcome hug. 

And then…I was left to wade into the throng. 

I managed to push my way in about two feet, popping up on my toes to see if I could find any familiar faces. The place was absolutely vibrating with high energy and happy, loud conversation, and I couldn’t help but grin. I remember the days when Anna first opened Central and worried with me about whether or not the crowds would ever come her way. 

As I tried to wrassle my way further into the restaurant, I discovered my hands were near my chin, similar to that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. As a cocktail server neared me with her tray of enticing appetizer samplers, I found myself helpless and hapless, unable to reach for a bite with my now-diminutive reach. 

I couldn’t help chuckling; this was a significant change up from the tranquil restaurant opening I had just exited moments before.

I managed to turn (really just spinning on my heeled toes as it was all the room I was allowed) and discovered Anna trying to make her way in the front door. I waved her down, hugged her, gabbled happily for a moment, and barked at people to clear a small path so that we could get a photo together.

The fanfare and goodwill were absolutely exuberant all around, and there is no one more deserving than Anna and Taylor.

I managed to tap the shoulder of one of the few local friends I could spot, and we shuffled and squeezed our way down the length of the restaurant to the back door exit. Emerging rather sweaty and disheveled, we took a few deep breaths…and headed for Ryan’s 370 Common for a much-needed drink.

Central opened to the public last night (Thursday) and I’ve made reservations for Saturday evening. I can’t wait to see the renovated space and try the “improved” menu (though I doubt much of anything can be improved at this fine eatery).

More news on that review in my column next time!

Congratulations to both of our Laguna-based restaurateurs, and I look forward to seeing both of your places filled to the brim. 

P.S. For Chef Ryan’s fried chicken-loving fans…oh, have I got news for you. More on that next week here at StuNews. 

Diane Armitage is the best-selling author of the book The Best of Laguna Beach, and offers a cornucopia of ideas and upcoming events at her blog at www.LagunaBeachBest.com.