Having tried Silverton & Batali's famous Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles just a couple months ago, we found it did not live up to the hype. Finally, OC was to get its own version of an "L.A. style" hotspot with Chef David Meyer.
Even though it occupies a former steakhouse's location, when you walk in you can't help but think Ortica was modeled very much after Mozza. I immediately thought it was a knock-off, but then found both the hosts and servers to be very warm and welcoming - unlike Mozza.
The tuna appetizer was so-so, but the smoked halibut was good. The Kabocha app was a touch acidic, but had a wonderful rich flavor I could repeat. Now for the stars of the meal: the pappardelle with lamb ragu was simply divine. The richness of the ricotta is in perfect harmony with the meaty ragu. The margherita pizza had by far the best thin crust I have ever tasted. Not too salty, not too bland. Not too dry, not too mushy. Really, it was perfect!
And the brussel sprouts. Oh my goodness. If only mothers across the country could learn to prepare veggies this good, kids would eat them all day long. Seriously, I would list Chef David's bruxelles as one of my top 5 dishes of all time. Beyond perfect. Michelin 3-star caliber.
Desserts: both the tiramisu and budino were excellent, and both had a nice salty caramel note to them.
Wine: this is the disappointing part. I don't mind spending a lot on wine...I regularly order $15+ glasses. However, the 3 wines I had (all Italian) were between $9 and $18 and I honestly would have preferred Two Buck Chuck over all of them. Honestly, Italian wine and I have never gotten along very well, so I am predisposed to not care for them. I would have preferred some Napa or South America on the "by the glass" list.
Service was great, personable and friendly. My water glass did go empty twice, but his personality made up for it.
Pros: Amazing Pizza Crust; Great Personal Service
Cons: Mediocre and expensive wine selection; cramped tables.