Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chill Out at Spaghettini

Enjoy a Wave of Good Food & Cool Jazz

Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to the following copyrighted material. For permission to reprint or excerpt it and/or link it to another website, contact them at  

After an early morning of surfing or when the waves aren’t breaking there’s nothing like pampering yourself with a leisurely Sunday brunch at Orange County’s acclaimed restaurant and jazz venue Spaghettini

Conveniently located at 3005 Old Ranch Parkway, on the corner of Seal Beach Boulevard, the restaurant is right on the border between Los Alamitos and Seal Beach.

Started in 1988 by Laurie Sisneros and Cary Hardwick, Spaghettini was conceived as a “meeting place” where people could come together to experience gourmet Northern Italian cuisine and enjoy top name entertainment. 

Known for its Legendary Sunday Brunch featuring jazz performers and broadcast live by radio station The Wave (94.7), Spaghettini is also open for lunch and dinner and has a full roster of music events in its lounge. 

When SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel were at Spaghettini on a recent Sunday the restaurant was packed and everyone was enjoying the urban soul music sound of Tower of Power tribute band Hip Street.

Plates loaded with brunch specials were flying out of the kitchen...

and diners opting to serve themselves were circling the buffet tables trying to make up their minds about what to have. The selections seemed endless so this was no easy task. 

With so many choices – salads, pasta, fresh fruit, bread and pastries, and entrees ranging from classic eggs Benedict to parmesan-crusted Chilean sea bass and salmon picatta – no one who comes to Spaghettini is in a hurry.

Brunch typically lasts for three hours. It’s a matter of pacing yourself…and leaving room for dessert.

Victor Avila, Spaghettini’s long-time executive chef, keeps coming up with items to tempt diners, preparing authentic Italian dishes with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Whether it’s wild mushroom penne, butternut squash ravioli, a mango seafood salad, or bone-in rib-eye steak, Avila makes it sing.

Recognized as a top chef by his peers, Avila was featured in Great Taste Magazine. Consistently a hit with food-lovers, Spaghettini is a winner of an Open Table Diners’ Choice Award.

The minute you enter Spaghettini you can sense that you’re in a special place where everyone is focused on food and fun. Surveying the main dining area, SurfWriter Girls picked up on the energy immediately.

At one table a dozen ladies were enjoying a “girls’ day out,” sampling each other’s dishes, and taking pictures to commemorate the occasion.

Couples at other tables clinked champagne glasses together. At the bar, people caught up in the music were dancing.

Spaghettini celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013 and is geared up to keep the music coming for the next 25 years.

SurfWriter Girls talked to manager Rob Rubinkan, who was eager to tell us about Spaghettini’s latest news: “We’re opening a new restaurant in Beverly Hills – Spaghettini & the Dave Koz Lounge. 

Along with this venture with popular saxophone player Koz, Rubinkan added, “We’ll be hosting a lot of new events. We’re known for music and food. Now we’re expanding into banquets and special events.”

Considering that over 300 people can show up for Sunday brunch, the restaurant feels surprisingly intimate. That’s because the space is divided into separate areas, including a bistro room, lounge, wine cellar, veranda, outdoor patio, and other seating spots.

Rubinkan explained that Spaghettini can host special events from small parties of 15 up to 100. So, depending on your mood and the size of your party, there’s a table that’s just right for taking in all the sights and sounds.  

Jazz artists, who have performed at Spaghettini, include: Koz, Boney James, Jeff Kashiwa, Hiroshima, Spencer Day, Brian McKnight, Eric Marienthal, and David Benoit.

When musicians are in town it’s not uncommon for them to stop by to see the acts, mingle, and enjoy the atmosphere. So, you never know who you’ll see. At a recent event SurfWriter Girls’ gal pal Bella Lagmay-Funk was hanging out with Dave Koz.

”The musicians are like family,” Rubinkan said, explaining that they feel at home when they enter the door. In recognition of its stature in the music industry, Spaghettini was named 2011 Oasis Contemporary Jazz Awards Best Jazz Venue.

To make the dining experience more meaningful, Spaghettini takes employees to Napa Valley’s wineries to find out how the wines are made and ways to pair them with food. “Everyone learns so much,” said Rubinkan. “The servers come back with stories to tell our guests.” 

Rubinkan, who grew up in Los Al, started at Spaghettini as a busboy. Now he spends most of his time at the restaurant except for days off when, in true California fashion, he heads to the beach. “When I’m not working, I’m surfing.”

Writer and humorist Mark Twain is often credited as saying, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Here in the OC that’s not a problem. Hot or cold, Orange County has the temperature covered with a coastline of warm, sunny beaches…

and a premiere location for cool jazz – Spaghettini  

Whether you go for a leisurely Sunday brunch, a special lunch or dinner, or just drop by for a drink at the bar, you’ll find Spaghettini’s inviting atmosphere and attentive staff hit all the right notes.

Please post your comment below. Comments will appear the next day.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Let Your Garden Go Native!

Ocean Friendly Gardens Au Naturel

Third in a series of SurfWriter Girls Features on Ocean Friendly Gardens

Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel hold the exclusive rights to the following copyrighted material. For permission to reprint or excerpt it and/or link it to another website, contact them at  

With the spring planting season underway the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) picked the perfect place for its Garden Tour in May – the Seal Beach home of Greg and Sharon Goran.

Greg Goran, who is the Surfrider Foundation’s Huntington/Seal Beach Chapter Ocean Friendly Gardens expert, and his wife Sharon greeted everyone and invited them to view their garden...

which is made up of drought-resistant plants and utilizes non-polluting gardening techniques that help to protect California’s water resources and the ocean.

CNPS members Dori Ito...

and Sarah Jayne were eager to learn more about the different things people can do to make their gardens ocean-friendly.  

“Greg’s garden was an excellent example of practices CNPS encourages,” said Ito. “The use of drought tolerant and native plants – especially in this record drought year – water conservation and retention, and providing wildlife habitat.

Surfrider Foundation and its Ocean Friendly Gardens program has objectives which align with ours and we were very happy that his garden fit right in. One person at a time we are changing attitudes and the thinking about what makes a beautiful, responsible California garden.”   
Local homeowners dropped by, too...

and there was considerable interest in the fact that the Gorans had replaced their traditional, water-thirsty lawn with a variety of succulents – cacti, ice plants, aloe – 

sages, deer grass, fuchsias, and other plants with minimal water needs.


“When it comes to wasting water, lawns are the biggest offenders,” Goran told SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel, explaining why the lawn had to go. “The typical lawn uses 45,000 gallons of water a year.”

What’s more, much of that water used to keep our lawns looking green ends up polluting the environment as water runoff carries garden fertilizers and pesticides into the waterways and oceans. “Urban runoff is the number one source of ocean pollution,” said Goran.

So, it’s important for people to realize that, even if they don’t live near the ocean, the pollutants from their gardens can still enter drainage systems and make their way to the sea.

Among those taking in the sights in the garden was Surfrider’s H/SB Chapter Chairperson Tony Soriano, who pointed out that “ocean friendly gardens revive our watersheds and oceans by applying CPR – conservation, permeability and retention.”

Soriano added that the California Native Plant Society, which was started in 1965 to protect the state’s native plants and their natural habitat...

shares many of the Surfrider Foundation’s environmental objectives…including the use of native plants in landscaping.

The Gorans’ garden is made up of 80% native plants, which are lower maintenance, preserve the local ecosystem, and attract birds and butterflies.

It also utilizes a layer of organic compost that increases the permeability and biologic activity of the soil, creating an ideal environment for plant growth.

And, to further enhance their home’s landscape, the Gorans planted fruit trees and vegetable beds – providing visual interest to the garden and food for their table.

“People from the CNPS Garden Tour not only enjoyed all the color from the native plants in bloom,” Goran said to SurfWriter Girls, “but were also very interested in the edible component of the garden, which is watered mostly from a graywater (recycling) system.” 

Now Greg and Sharon have their dream garden – an ocean friendly garden that’s beautiful to look at and beautiful for the environment.

Sharon couldn’t be happier. “I really enjoy watching people stop by to take a close look at some of the plants in our yard. We’re excited about teaching people here in town about ocean friendly gardens and helping them to do it with their own yards.”

My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece. – Claude Monet

To find out how you can create your own ocean friendly garden masterpiece, contact the Surfrider Foundation or go online to www.oceanfriendlygardens.org. You’ll get all the help you need.

Please post your comment below. Comments will appear the next day.