Mr. G’s Bistro makes a splash on Balboa Island
Time seems to stand still as soon as you cross the bridge onto Balboa Island. The buildings, which seem to have stood the test of time, look exactly the same as they did a decade ago. The streets are small and narrow. And, many of the businesses have been landmarks on Balboa for generations. So, when a newcomer opens shop on Marine Avenue, everyone takes notice.
“This Mr. G’s place is so popular,” says one passerby as she pulls down her Dior sunglasses and peers towards our table. “I’ve seen it in all the magazines. It must be good.”
She is correct. Since opening in December, this quaint Italian bistro has made a splash in a big way. Beachgoers bike past the restaurant on Schwinn cruisers painted in aquatic tones, families stroll past as they savor their beloved Balboa Bars, and owner Guiseppe Accardi stands inside his chic new restaurant, Mr. G’s Bistro, and watches it all unfold in front of his eyes. Before opening this gem, Accardi spent years overseeing the front of house staff at the tony AnQi at South Coast Plaza. His style and sensibility translate well to Mr. G’s new space. The restaurant, with its black and white décor, is the perfect perch for you to luxuriate in conversation as the sun sets on a warm Newport Beach day. Accardi, along with his team, executive chef Jason Elder and Chef de Cuisine Oscar Trejo, are serving some of the best Italian cuisine in Orange County from the most unassuming kitchen.
Starters at Mr. G’s consist of salads and soups with seasonal offerings such as fresh spring asparagus. The garden beet salad rings with bright jewel-colored beets, as pops of pale pink and marigold yellow peep through a generous mound of frisse greens. The salad’s labeneh yogurt spread adds a creamy, cool element that is brought to life with crunchy cocoa nibs. If you have time and ample space in your stomach, you must order from the prix fixe lunch menu. It’s an ideal way of traipsing through Mr. G’s offerings. The large meatball starter arrives as a beautiful tender beefy mound wading in a pool of rich tomato sauce covered in a snowy blanket of shaved Parmesan. My tablemate and I wished we each ordered our own meatball. “I could stuff this in a hoagie and devour this again at midnight!” he exclaimed.
While the gargantuan meatball was definitely our favorite dish of the meal, the fresh pastas are the restaurant’s true stunners. Delicate strands of tagliatelle pasta soak up the light white wine tomato sauce infused with hints of saffron. Interspersed in the pasta are wild prawns and petite tomatoes that burst upon first bite.
Save room for the fried chicken plate. It’s massive with four pieces of crispy chicken served on a beautiful black slate stone with fresh lemon wedges and a mound of Maldon sea salt. Garnished on top is a large heap of peppery arugula leaves. The “salad” not only adds color to the chicken dish, but it also adds a needed burst of spice to break up the salty fried breading.
Dinners at Mr. G’s Bisto echo the same laid-back tone. Except in this intimate atmosphere, the restaurant feels like an ideal spot for a romantic evening rendezvous. The menu for dinner is quite similar to lunch. However, a surprising must-order dish is the rich chicken roulade with creamy mushroom ragu.
Though it’s challenging, try to save room for the desserts. Each sweet offering is plated beautifully. The decadent apple crisp is oatmeal cookie meats apple pie. The gooey dessert is drizzled with caramel and arrives with a large mound of rich vanilla gelato. Our server says that the apple crisp is one of the most popular desserts, but his favorite is the unassuming chocolate fudge brownie. That’s definitely on our must-try list for next time. Mr. G’s ever-evolving menu reflects the changing landscape on Balboa Island. One thing is for certain; this bistro is a welcomed addition to Orange County. Accardi spent countless hours perfecting this slice of the island, and we are all happy to visit.
Mr. G’s Bistro, 305 Marine Avenue, Newport Beach, 949.675.6196 :: MrGsBistro.com