If you ask any Italian restaurant owner if they serve “authentic” Italian cuisine, they’ll always answer “yes.” In fact, every single Italian restaurant up and down the California coastline claims to be “authentic.”

But being “authentic” Italian isn’t just about the menu. It isn’t just about the flag of Italy on the wall. And it isn’t just about the wine, the bread, the cheese, the tomatoes, the gravy, or the dough—it’s about the feeling of being Italian.

In Italy, there’s a saying—“La cucina piccola fa la casa grande,” which translates “The small kitchen makes the house big.” What’s that mean? It means love is at the center of authentic Italian cooking, and love is what brings the family together at the dinner table each night. That kind of love can create an intangible experience of not only tasting a beautifully prepared meal, but also connecting with food on a deeper level.

So, for those of you who think a pizza is just a pizza, a pasta is just a pasta, and a branzino is just a branzino, it’s time to think again. In fact, it’s time to stamp your passport to Laguna Niguel to immerse yourself in an authentic Italian gastronomic experience in one of the most stunning culinary spaces in all of Orange County.

Welcome to Bottega Angelina.

Bottega Angelina is new to the food scene of Laguna Niguel, but its visionary restaurateurs have been well established for quite some time with Angelina’s Pizzeria Napoletana in Irvine, which is considered to be one of the most “authentic” pies you can experience in all of Southern California.

So it’s no surprise that when owners Shokoufeh and Filippo Fusco decided to open up a new, Italian village style bottega and ristorante at the top of a hill reminiscent of Cinque Terra they went all-in on authenticity.

From the menu that executes perfect traditional dishes as well as reimagined specialties, to the mercato highlighting some of Italy’s finest imported products, to the bakery that reimagines old favorites with upmarket flair, Bottega Angelina distinguishes itself as more than an eatery—it’s a village in and of itself.

“Bottega Angelina is founded upon creating authentic, fresh, and delicious recipes from Italy,” says Shokoufeh Fusco, Owner of Bottega Angelina. “When we set out on the journey to develop authenticity, we found ourselves importing several ingredients from Italy. As a result, we formed long-term partnerships with key importers and producers which gave us the idea to start a marketplace and create a self-contained culinary destination.”

Combine fine ingredients with a fine team and the result is magic. Bottega Angelina has put together an impressive staff of culinary veterans with the experience and background necessary to launch the mind and taste buds on a hyper speed course directly to the old country.

But you can’t get to the old country without authenticity. Executive chef Filippo Piccini hails from Saturnia, a small seaside village in Tuscany, where he learned the art of Italian cooking inside his mother’s kitchen.

Corporate Chef Alfonso Sanna grew up in the small village of Villamar in Sardegna and gained his culinary degree from L’Istitulo Prfessionale Alberghierio in Arzachena.

Executive Pastry Chef Rebekah Eastman started her culinary adventure in a small-family owned Italian restaurant that became the inspiration behind both her traditional and innovative creations.

Fellow Executive Pasty Chef Massimo Cosmano reigns from Albenga in Northern Italy, and grew up above a pastry shop in his hometown, where the scents, flavors, and sights inspired him to learn the art of pastry.

General manager Vittorio Homberger is a native Italiano as well, having spent his childhood in Ivrea in the Piedmont region, before traveling across Italy and Europe managing some of the finest establishments on the planet.

And who’s in charge of it all coming together? Chef Aaron Zimmer, a culinary mastermind who has worked with just about everyone in the industry after his apprenticeship with Michelin-starred chef Gunter Seeger.

With a crew like that in place, you’re guaranteed authentic dishes with an imaginative twist that can immediately transport you to your favorite spot across the “boot.”

Looking for something truly dynamic—try the pappardelle al cinghiale with scratch made pasta and wild boar meat sauce. In the mood for a protein? Try the scottadito—lamb chops that are so irresistible you’ll “burn your fingers” as soon as they hit the table. And of course, Bottega Angelina dishes out some of the finest pizzas you can find, from burrata tartufata with mozzarella di Bufala, prosciutto di parma, burrata, and truffles, to a classic capricciosa with mozzarella di Bufala, San Marzano DOP tomato, Taggiasca olives, cremini mushrooms, artichokes, and imported Italian ham. And the best part—many of the ingredients used in the seasonal menu can also be found in the mercato, so you can bring a little piece of Bottega Angelina home with you.

Food is transformational in a sense that it not only creates a new experience for the palette but also a new experience for the mind. We connect food with memories, with family members, with lovers, with children, and with places.

Which is why Bottega Angelina is so interesting—because the flavors and dishes are familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. If you’ve ever dined at an Italian grandmother’s home, you’ll recognize that savory scent of spice, chilies, onions, and herbs the minute you walk in the door. But if you’ve never grabbed a pizza al taglio in Roma, or guzzled down a bottle of Sassicaia with a borscheto al tartufa at dusk in Tuscany, you’ll feel like you’ve experienced it all in a past life at Bottega Angelina.

“All of our pizzas, pastas, bread, chocolate, pastries, and sauces are made in house by our amazing culinary team,” says Fusco. “Each member contributes to the success of our concept and creates an environment that truly distinguishes us as a team dedicated to surpassing expectations and elevating flavors—we bring the best of Italy to you.”

With panoramic hillside and Pacific Ocean views it’s easy to close your eyes, inhale the scent of roasted garlic, mortadella, hand- crafted sausages, imported cheeses, and scratch made pastas and believe you truly are in Italia.

“We have nature on our side at this amazing location,” says Fusco. “We opened up the view and created a cozy environment to enjoy the sunset. Inside, we wanted a light and bright space during the

day that also offered a warm and inviting space in the evening. Our goal was to bring historic pieces of Italy to the design through the hand- cut mosaics while still maintaining a modern palate with art-deco touches.”

To say Bottega Angelina is an aesthetically pleasing environment to experience savory and sweet Italian fare would be an understatement. Arrive to find a

Santa Barbara stucco structure surrounded by olive trees, potted citrus, Italian cypress, and lush lavender. Step inside and experience stylish and modish Italian interior design with a true California flare conceptualized and realized by renowned Kelly Architects and Shawmut Design and Construction. Custom mosaic tiles by Feruxe, Joseph & Sons, and LFNCO adorn the mercato walls, adding that je ne sais quoi that so many international restaurants seem to lack these days—attention to detail, attention to the homeland, attention to your eyes, ears, tongue, and touch. It all comes together with the focal point of the ristorante—a Stefano Ferraro VPN certified custom pizza oven from Naples situated next to the open kitchen giving diners a sizzling look at the fresh and heartfelt prep that goes into building an unforgettable culinary experience.

“Shambra Design was very instrumental in the kitchen layout and flow of service,” says Fusco. “They worked closely with our chefs to ensure all their requests were implemented. And Stefano Ferraro ovens will always be a staple in all our locations because they’re the best in the industry—and that’s what we aim for.”

Spritzer. Aperitivo. Cocktail. Wine. Digestivo. Espresso. If you’re anything like me, you like to arrive at dazzling bistros early and leave late. Belly-up to Bottega Angelina’s “il bar” featuring Italian calacatta waterfall countertops and enjoy the expertly curated cocktails and wine list before, possibly during (depending on your guests), and after your meal. The bar staff at Bottega Angelina displays impressive wine knowledge and creates new and traditional refreshments to satisfy any curious cocktail adventurer.

“We have dedicated members of our ‘il bar’ concept that create the recipes for our craft cocktails,” says Fusco. “We serve only carefully curated Italian wines in both of our restaurants, and our cocktails are seasonal and designed to capture the flavors of Italy—they are quite distinctive.”

A cocktail in the warm sun, a dinner overlooking the Pacific, a dessert under the stars. If you’re looking for total peace and tranquility with an absolutely stunning city light, hillside, and ocean view, head out to the patio to lounge with friends, have a cigar, and experience the pitch perfect coastal O.C. climate every single day of the year. And if you have a chance, get there before sunset—it’s a magical experience that fills you with 360 degree citrus hues atop the sparkling blue sea. With an adjacent shop of exceptional imported goods, spirits, and wines as well as cooking classes, tastings, and demonstrations, Bottega Angelina is about as close as you can get to a small Italian village without spending 16 hours getting there.

Bottega Angelina is new—but it doesn’t feel new. The interior design concepts may scream upmarket living. The menu may dazzle like a Michelin-starred restaurant. And the educated and attentive staff may be almost too perfect. But there’s something old inside the walls of Bottega Angelina—and that’s its authentic Italian soul.

For reservations, to learn more, or browse their seasonal menu, visit bottegaangelina.com