Best Off-Menu Entrée - 2011
Nick's Pizza Ristorante Italiano
2300 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Before the shopping center at Harbor Boulevard and Wilson Street in Costa Mesa was redone years ago, Nick's was actually behind the businesses facing Harbor, in the kind of spot where you had to know where it was to find it. Fortunately, bustling Nick's is now in a high-profile locale between Harbor and the TJ Maxx. But that's not all that has changed at Nick's 2.0: One of the best dinner entrées, Della Casa, is no longer on the menu. You can still order it, and you won't even have to explain what it is to the veteran servers. Peas, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and penne rigate pasta are perfectly cooked and tossed in an ungodly creamy tomato sauce that is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. As you're gnawing away, thinking life does not get any better than this, prove otherwise by grabbing a square of Nick's addictive garlic bread and dip it into the sauce. And the Della Casa portion is so big you can split it with your tablemate and still have leftovers. But be forewarned: It'll just remind you that you need to schedule another visit to that crazy shopping center. $$$