With so many excellent restaurants in Orange County, I seldom stray across the county line, but the Naples and Belmont Shores areas of Long Beach offer myriad good reasons, and good restaurants, to venture away from home.
Michael’s on Naples is one of those restaurants. This award-winning fine dining Italian bistro on Second Street in Naples serves excellent cuisine. I’ve dined there for dinner, but was recently there for Sunday brunch, which formerly was offered only in spring and summer but has now been extended year-around.
Both the dinner and brunch menus are courtesy of Chef Eric Samaniego, formerly the Executive Chef at Little Sparrow in downtown Santa Ana. That restaurant closed six years ago (it is now Mix Mix Kitchen + Bar, run by 2019 Business Journal Chef of the Year Ross Pangalinan), so Chef Samaniego went north—slightly—to Michael’s on Naples, where he was thrust into navigating Italian fare.
Samaniego, who was born in Orange, said “I’ve kept many of Michael’s go-to dishes, such as the signature lasagna and savory squash blossoms, but I’ve also been given liberty to create and experiment.”
“I would have to say my current culinary style is regional Italian with California influences.”
Michaels’ Market recently opened next to Michael’s on Naples. The Market sells gourmet groceries and ready-to-cook foods.
“By visiting Michael’s Market, our valued customers will have the opportunity to re-create flavors from their favorite Michael’s on Naples dishes from the comfort of their home,” said Michael Dene, owner of the Michael’s on Naples restaurant group, in a statement. “We are excited to offer fine wine, house-made sauces and pastas, and so much more that will meet the discerning tastes of our community.”
In addition to grocery items, sandwiches are available for lunch on the go, while a traditional deli counter serves lasagna, cheeses, and a selection of meats.
The market is located inside the former Michael’s Pizzeria space, which merged with Michael’s on Naples in June.
The OCBJ Review
Chef Eric Samaniego’s style becomes apparent trying out the brunch menu at Micheal’s on Naples.
General Manager Massimo Aronne, who helped open the restaurant in December 2007, told me and fellow foodie Della Lisi (a full-blooded Italian) when we “brunched” at Michael’s on Naples last month that the menu was indeed Italian inspired.
“Everything has an Italian twist—the eggs benedict is made with prosciutto, the appetizers are Italian biscuits made in a cast iron pan. It’s all Italian.”
After ordering mimosas (only $1 during brunch), we began with gallette: intricate crème fraiche biscuits served with seasonal jam and butter. The multiple little layers of the biscuits begged for the delicious homemade jam to smother them.
Next was the Pane Tostato: ricotta-stuffed French toast with figs, strawberries, almonds and pink lemon. It was as decadent as it sounds, and elicited cries of “wow” from Lisi.
“The fruit will change with the seasons,” Aronne said.
Next came a frittata with baked eggs, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, goat cheese, and a mixed green salad with grilled ciabatta bread. Another savory dish that delighted our taste buds.
Then came burrata with smoked candy grapes and prosciutto. Yes, the grapes had a smokey essence to them, the perfect accompaniment to the burrata and prosciutto.
Although we shared the dishes, Lisi and I admitted to being full, but somehow that did not stop us from digging into our final dish: risotto with pancetta, corn puree and a poached egg.
I love risotto, but this dish kicked it up a notch or two thanks to the corn puree and bacon. The poached egg seemingly made this a breakfast dish, but I’d gladly eat this any time of day.
We passed on dessert and departed full and happy.
Several years ago, Michael’s on Naples redesigned their lovely upstairs patio where brunch is served. It’s a hidden oasis, the perfect spot to meet up with friends and celebrate Michael’s upcoming 15th anniversary.
Michael’s on Naples: 5620 E. 2nd St., Long Beach, (562) 439-7080, michaelsonnaples.com