Last week, all diets were off with a visit to one of my favorites, Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Canyon next to Sawdust. While Chef Erik is never one for loading in frothy, empty calories, his dishes are so rich and fabulous in flavor that you simply can’t stop eating. My dear friend, Diana, was out from Denver, and we joined other dear friends of mine on this side of the continent, Kaj and Mary Garmshausen. There were plenty of bites to share.

Chef Erik has recently debuted his spring menu, and it is alight with lively color and complexities. Even Mary’s simple dish of New Zealand King Salmon was fresh and colorful and cooked to perfection.

Diana opted for Chef’s new Gnocchi Viola. That’s right – it’s a purple potato gnocchi (something I’ve never enjoyed before) in a creamy smoked scamorza sauce.

Scamorza is a lesser-known cousin of the mozzarella family, but it’s one I prefer to add into sauces when I can find it. It’s a super creamy, mild cheese with just a hint of caramel smokiness. It added a great new depth to the gnocchi dish without the stickiness that can occur as gnocchi cools in its cheesy sauce. This luxurious dish could easily be shared as an appetizer, too.

Oliver’s new Gnocchi Viola is made of purple potatoes in a smoky, rich sauce.

Kaj choose the evening pasta special, which also proved a rich, yet light blend of mushrooms and braised pork and duck ragout folded in with freshly made short tube pasta. Topped with paper-thin truffle shavings, it was a rustic, sublime event.

Oliver’s Lobster pasta dish is both memorable in presentation and taste.

Ever a seafood fan, I chose the Spaghetti Chitarra All’ Aragosta. The stately dish features house-made guitar spaghetti with fresh lobster in an arrabbiata sauce, which adds peppery spice to a marina base. It was fresh and bright with plenty of rich lobster pairing companionably with the sauce.

Leave it to Chef Erik to knock it out of the park once again. The dishes were lovely, and the service even lovelier. This is a must this summer for you as well as your visiting guests.

Check out my almost daily foodie finds in my social media platforms at Instagram and Facebook. Our Laguna chefs and owners continue to outdo themselves – be sure to let them know!

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