As we inch ever closer to expanded restaurant seating options, Laguna restaurateurs are expanding their options, period.
Chef Craig Connole (formerly K’ya and Rooftop) has gained traction since taking over Ristorante Rumari’s operation a year ago. With the City’s blessings, the crew created an entire 80-seat patio on its back parking lot (and discovered a lovely ocean view in the process.) While that patio remains busily popping with Chef’s talented cooking, the interior of the restaurant is making way for a new Famiglia Alimentari with wine bar and bistro seating. While much is already in order, the next 30 days will see a true transformation in the space.
Laguna’s First Italian Market
Picture your favorite go-to market when you were last in Florence or a larger city’s “Little Italy,” and you know exactly what’s developing at Rumari over the next 30 days.
An Italian “Alimentari” is typically a family-run market that offers sublime pantry items, fresh-baked breads, daily made sauces and pastas for grab-and-go, wines and beers by the glass or bottle, and even butchery items.
The market, which includes an Osteria (“wine bar with simple foods”) will be open from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. five or six days a week. Dinner seating for Rumari’s larger menu will continue as usual (once allowed indoors), Wednesdays through Sunday, 5 p.m.to 9 p.m.
Keeping It in the Family
In keeping with the family-run theme, Chef Craig has brought on his sister, Christi Bell, and niece Keely Bell to help him run the Alimentari operation. Older sister Christi is a familiar face, having been a staple in management in various restaurants operated by Craig and fellow business partner, Chris Keller.
I”We put the plans together for this about a year ago,” said Craig. “But then, you know, everything got crazy and we’re just now getting around to finally creating what really is meant to be a neighborhood go-to for our Laguna neighborhoods.”
As refrigerators for bottled items and grab-and-go dinners are rolling into play, Famiglia Alimentari already offers plenty of pantry items, and its Osteria remains true to its name, offering a fully stocked wine bar (and bartender!) at the Rumari bar.
The wine bar and bistro seating will offer a revolving shorter menu of Chef Craig’s famous Meatballs Marinara, Smoked Salmon Carpaccio, Polenta with Ragu Bolognese, and Italian sandwiches with Rumari’s melt-in-your-mouth breads.
“We’ll be opening around 11 a.m. each day, so it’s easy to stop in, grab a great lunch or early dinner, maybe have a glass of wine and pick up items for your next dinner at home,” said Christi.
The grab-and-go refrigerators will be stocked with ready-made dinners from the Rumari menu, including best-selling lasagne, eggplant parmigiana, spaghetti & meatballs and more. Chef Craig is also packaging up his famous sauces, meatballs, salads and desserts. Italian beers and popular wines from both sides of the Atlantic will be housed in the miniature wine shop, too.
Customized Picnic Baskets
In keeping with that old world, rustic theme, Alimentari is offering picnic baskets of various sizes, too. These can be custom ordered in advance or picked up with packed-to-go options.
“People can pick up a picnic basket for the beach or their backyard. And, we’re hoping hotel guests in the area will be interested, too,” said Craig. “A lot of times, you may be checking into a hotel after flying across the country. You know you need to eat but you really don’t feel like heading out again. So, grab your picnic basket and hang out on your deck where you have the best views in town, anyway.”
Ready for Parties & Catering, Too
As the front of house is seeing significant changes, the back of house has enjoyed a spa day of its own, too. The antiquated dry storage on the north side of Rumari’s kitchen has been cleaned up and readied for more efficient to-go orders and catering heading out the door, perfect for those days when groups return, and catering becomes a real thing again.
“We’re just here to be your go-to,” said Chef Craig. “If you want something special … if you need a private chef … if you have a special occasion you don’t know how to plan for … that’s what the Famiglia Alimentari specializes in.”
It’s that added homey touch in one of the longest running neighborly restaurants in Laguna Beach. “In the end, we’re just neighbors helping out neighbors,” said Craig.