Sometimes, I feel bad for Canaletto at Fashion Island. Its take on regional Italian cuisine frequently gets lost to the shopping center's crowd, especially the mock Italians that have their Ferraris and Fiats valeted just in front of the restaurant. The crowds usually want eggplant parmigiana and don't care for the in-house salumi, the rare soups and risottos, or any of the other subtleties. But despite its setting, Canaletto has thrived for years now--and the Italians that work here, from the bartenders to the wait staff, not only speak the language but emote like a real paisane.
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You can spend weeks here just going through their grappas and digestifs, but the cocktail program has markedly improved over the past year. Consider their Italian Renaissance.
I initially didn't think I'd enjoy this drink of Maker's, St. Germain, and pomegranate, lime, and lemon juices; it's my chica who enjoys tart, not meself. And the cocktail comes in a water glass instead of a highball or even Tom Collins, making me fear it would be just another excuse for Spyglass Hill gals to get sloshed. But there's nuance here: the citrus and pomegranate juices balance each other out, letting the Maker's and St. Germain duke it out for the cocktail's overall flavor. St. Germain's wins by a hair--sweet but potent--with Maker's walloping you in the end. May Canaletto continue to reign as one of OC's most underrated gems--and may I one day have my 1991 Toyota pickup get valeted, just to bring down the value of all those douche cars by half, if only for the afternoon....