We found piadina, handmade pastas, and of course Lambrusco at Vitaly in Costa Mesa. Oh, and leave some room for gelato.

Located in the suburbs of Costa Mesa, breaking the monotony of big malls and retailers, The LAB “Little American Business”, is a melting pot of very different cuisines. This is where we found Vitaly Caffè, this hidden gem of Italian gastronomy, a creation of Maurizio Cocchi and his wife Barbara.

pasta at vitaly caffe

Tagliatelle on point

Maurizio has been traveling to the United States since the 80s, and has a very interesting past in the surfing world (can you think of anything more Californian than that?). This is when, year after year, he started realizing the need for a place in Orange County where to find authentic Italian food.

Five years into being open, Vitaly remains a place where good Italian food is created first-hand, raw ingredients are meticulously researched, and the recipes are tuned by Maurizio’s passion every day.

Piadina from vitaly caffe

Piadina with Parma prosciutto

What’s good at Vitaly Caffè in Costa Mesa

We started our meal with the three flagship pastas: the Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and Walnuts, the Lasagne alla Bolognese with meat sauce and béchamel, and the Tagliatelle al Ragù (definitely our favorite).

What really blew us away wasn’t just the sauce, but the texture of these homemade pastas. It’s rare to find such a consistency. Every plate was simple in its presentation, being the flavors of the ingredients the real protagonist in a true Italian tradition. The sauce never overpowered the pasta or vice versa.

A glass of Sangiovese and one of Lambrusco from the small but expressive wine list were the perfect pairing for the whole meal. We strongly suggest you experience the bubbly and refreshing sensation of the Lambrusco with the intense mouthfeel of this pasta.

Patio at vitaly caffe

Chilling at Vitaly Caffe

Next, we tried the Piadina and the Cassone – the traditional street food of Emilia-Romagna, owner Maurizio’s home region. Similar in shape to a tortilla, but thicker and with a dense, spongy texture, this simple food has been part of the Italian cuisine since the XIV century. A six-month-long research for the perfect flour, as well as a passion for local traditions, allowed Maurizio to achieve what we can’t avoid defining as an outstanding piadina. Filled with prosciutto di Parma, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula, this was a true expression of the terroir. Firm and crunchy, yet delicate and soft, the piadina, and its big brother, the Cassone (a fully closed piadina), really had us craving more.

Gelato bites at vitaly caffe in costa mesa

Gelato sampling

Got a little sugar craving?

Last but not least, the Gelato and the Sorbetto. Both made in-house, just like everything else, these desserts alone would have been well worth the trip. Be sure to try the tasting plate where you can get a selection of five gelato or sorbetto. Sorbetto, considered the grandfather of gelato, with more water in the mixture compared to gelato, is the perfect way to end a big meal.

We tried the many flavors of both the gelato and sorbetto, and the ones that really got our attention were definitely the pear and ricotta, tiramisu, and pistachio for the gelato. As for sorbetto, the chocolate was simply amazing!

coffee at vitaly caffe

Make sure to get an espresso!

No Italian meal is complete without espresso, right? The chocolatey and nutty aromas rising from perfect crema (the golden foam-like layer on top of proper espresso) was the grand finale that this meal deserved.

Maurizio sources the coffee from the now century-old torrefazione (roasting house in italian) Filicori Zecchini in the city of Bologna. Hands down one of the best coffees I have ever tasted in the United States. Creamy and soft with a full body, this coffee is really the perfect treat for your lazy afternoon, or your dinner with friends.

Lasagna in costa mesa

Lasagna because… why not?

Not quite like Emilia-Romagna, but close enough…

All in all, the experience at Vitaly couldn’t have been better. Away from the crowds, in a place that whispers to savor life (there is a hammock just 60 ft away, just saying), this is the perfect spot to unwind after a long day. Maurizio is doing an amazing job elevating the ingredients of his local cuisine, by recreating the dishes of Emilia-Romagna here in California.

Coming from LA and going south, Vitaly is impossible to miss. Sitting at the crossing of the 405, 73 and 55 freeways, just south of South Coast Plaza.

We highly recommend visiting Vitaly and sitting outside. Sit back and enjoy the never ending summer of Orange County, while drinking a chilled glass of Lambrusco with a tagliere of cold cuts and cheeses, you won’t regret it!


This review of Vitaly is based on a complimentary meal. Photos by Adriano Piazza for Foodiamo. All rights reserved. 


Vitaly Caffè
Where: 2937 Bristol St B103-B100, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
When: Sun-Thu, 8:30-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 8:30-10:30pm
Phone: (714) 662-5500