Feeding the Fire
WRITTEN BY: DEIRDRE MICHALSKI | PHOTOGRAPHED BY: PATRICK MARTIN
Settebello Pizzeria is just one big surprise. The restaurant is enormous with two large wooden pergolas that anchor the space with an Italian flair. The roof is completely open to the sky. There are large olive trees reaching to the lights and floor-to-ceiling folding glass panels, all creating a dramatic and welcoming indoor/outdoor vibe. An expansive horseshoe bar and modern living room inspired conversation pods ensure a relaxed setting for mingling and meeting friends. The show stopper on the menu is, of course, the pizza. Inspired by the authentic recipes of Napoli, it is soft and foldable. A selection of 12 different pizzas is offered and perfect for sharing.
The table is set for an Italian-inspired lunchtime pizza feast among friends. These six gentlemen are all out for a casual afternoon of pizza sampling, wine and beer tasting, guy-style banter, and a good old card game of Scopa. In fact, the restaurant is named after the most valuable card in the deck. Settebello is the nickname for the “seven of gold” card. So, with a bevy of bite- size appetizers, fresh arugula salad, and an overflowing table full of delicious pizzas, the afternoon was off to a great start!
Mirroring a casual cucina, the décor features rustic wood tables with black inlaid bracings, crisp white cotton napkins with blue accents, and an oversized antique brass bowl overflowing with fresh fruit. White square plates offer the perfect setting for the colorful cuisine. Olive oils and balsamic vinegars stand at attention, reminding us of the traditional and delicious ingredients.
We sat down with General Manager Matt Singleton and Executive Chef Laramie Bradbury to learn more about this restaurant’s concept and hear how they are so successfully bringing the best of Napoli here to the United States.
Interview with: EXECUTIVE CHEF LARAMIE BRADBURY & GENERAL MANAGER MATT SINGLETON
Q: With your eighth restaurant here in Crystal Cove, how did Settebello first get its start?
Matt Singleton: Well, we started in Henderson, Nevada. This is where one of our owners, Brad, got to know Carmine D’Amato, who is a dynamic chef from Napoli. We now have two in Nevada, two in Utah, and another four in Southern California. Chef Laramie and I have moved from place to place as we opened each one, so it is really nice just to be in one place right now. We have some thoughts on the next location, but nothing that I can share with you right now.
Q: I have heard some very interesting descriptions of your pizza. What is it that makes it so unique?
Laramie Bradbury: Our pizza is handmade with a soft, naturally rising dough that is cooked at very high heat. It is not a crispy style—it is more flexible and foldable. It is a “wetter style” of pizza and is typically eaten with a knife and fork.
Q: What are some of the “must have” pizzas here?
MS: Chef Laramie and I really like the Settebello Pizza. It just has a little bit of everything that we like. There are crushed tomatoes, pancetta, sausage, mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, mozzarella, basil and olive oil. You have to be hungry for that one. Our Margherita Pizza is great for those guests who are not too adventuresome, and for kids. It has crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmigiano, basil and olive oil.
Q: Are there any unique differences here at this Newport Beach restaurant versus your other locations?
LB: Well, one thing that really surprised us was the number of menu requests we started receiving for vegetarian options. We responded right away, adding various vegetable choices in salads, appetizers and pizzas. Half of our pizzas are now vegetarian, and we also welcome special requests.
Q: Anything else you can think of that is different about diners here in Orange County?
MS: The other difference is the fact that we sell so much more wine here than our other locations. That surprised us. We feature Californian and Italian wines, and have a great selection.
Q: Do you receive very many special requests for guests with specific dietary restrictions?
LB: We have a number of guests that have asked about gluten free options. So, we have added it to the menu. For a nominal fee, we offer a gluten free crust. This is made with buckwheat starch and soy. We are hearing this request more and more often, so we are glad to have a solution!
Q: You have a large bar here, and lots of comfortable lounge seating. Is your bar a happening place here in Crystal Cove?
MS: Yes, we have a pretty robust cocktail program here at Settebello. We offer 12 different beers on tap—including many local craft beers, and we offer six in the bottle. We are proud of the fact that we create all of our own fresh juices, house-made syrups and mixes. That extra effort ensures our guests delicious cocktails. And as I mentioned, wines sell great here in Newport as well!
Q: It is so nice to be able to see through that wall of glass, and see into the kitchen. We can watch the pizzas being made, and the fire is ablaze with an orange, and red glow. Where did you secure that huge oven?
MS: The oven is handmade by artisan oven makers in Napoli. The individual bricks inside are handmade from volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius. The oven can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees.
Q: What type of wood do you use in that oven?
LB: We feed the fire with a mixture of red oak and citrus woods.
Q: How are you able to maintain the consistency of your cuisine, and the dining experience across all eight restaurants?
MS: One of the biggest factors is our Executive Corporate Chef Carmine D’Amato. He works in each restaurant and trains all of the chefs and kitchen staff. That is huge for our company and ensures much of the uniformity we enjoy across the board.
Q: I watch them sliding the pizzas into the oven so quickly. They maneuver them with those long paddles—lifting and turning them. It seems like they are done in just a few minutes. What is the process to perfecting this technique?
LB: The pizzaiolo (pizza maker) has to be professionally trained to be able to work that quickly. Chef Carmine D’Amato works with all our chefs to train them in this style of cooking, and he also brings some over from Italy for a stint here in the US.
Q: Do you use domestic or imported ingredients here?
LB: Everything we can import, we certainly do. Our flour is imported from Napoli, Italy. Our prosciutto cotto and crudo are from the small town of Parma. The Parmesan cheese is from Modena, and the tomatoes are from San Marzano. We do order our pancetta and salumi in Seattle, Washington, and our fruits and vegetables come from West Central Produce.
Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana | 7864 East Coast Highway | Newport Coast, CA 92657 | 949.715.2072 | www.settebello.net