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By Edwin Goei
Photo by Shannon SibayanWhen she was a high school senior nearly a decade ago, my charming companion once ate at Beach Cities Pizza, a ramshackle eatery close to Dana Point Harbor. It was after a high school trip to see the gray whales of Doheny, and she still fondly recalls Beach Cities' hearty spaghetti, its gourmet pizzas and the powerful garlic sauce that polluted the bus ride home. Or rather, she remembers the memory of others eating those meals—my charming companion was seasick that day.
I didn't find this out, though, until the breadsticks arrived one recent Sunday afternoon at Beach Cities. They were irregularly shaped but soft and toasty, and she and I slathered those edible midgets with the pizzeria's terrifying garlic sauce: oily; strewn with thin, crispy strands of garlic; and so searing it actually numbed our lips. We munched on the breadsticks while admiring a mural that depicted a Headlands bereft of development.
Talk returned to my charming companion's long-ago visit—and then the friend who comforted her nausea that day called. "I ate here 10 years ago," my charming companion lamented after they hung up. "Here I am again. Nothing in my life has changed in that time. Nothing."
34473 St. of the Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629
Region: Dana Point
"Stop it," I snapped as I went to refill our glasses with lemonade—ice wasn't necessary since they were previously stored in a refrigerator. A waiter approached us with garlic bread and spaghetti. Beach Cities' garlic bread was airy, an edible length of lace, and came smeared with a stain of butter. We used it to soak up the rich marinara sauce that slithered along the long, chewy spaghetti strands.
I tried telling my charming companion that her life was great—"You won't be the biggest loser at your 10-year reunion," I assured her. Her eyes flared with retribution, and only the pizza saved me. I had dined on the Newporter pizza in a previous trek to Beach Cities, a sweet mix of meaty prawns, juicy sun-dried tomatoes and a tangy pesto sauce glued onto a thin crust by a milky cheese. Today, we desired something lighter—the Doheny. This was more salad than pie: julienned carrots, bean sprouts and green onions, and many, many roasted peanuts topped the actual pizza with no form or order. But the thing was substantial; below the veggies were hefty chicken chunks and the same luscious cheese. Instead of pizza sauce, the Beach Cities cooks used a peanut-ginger sauce that soaked perfectly through the salty sourdough crust.
"Life isn't bad," I insisted again. My charming companion didn't respond. She leaned back in her chair and gently patted her cute stomach. A surf tune squawked on the radio. She sat up. "Let's get a sandwich for the trip back home," she said with a smile. And we did.
BEACH CITIES PIZZA, 34473 GOLDEN LANTERN, DANA POINT, (949) 496-0606.