Laguna Beach – “The Prettiest Beach”

Categories: Day Tripping, Diva-Colored Glasses, Diva-liscious, Do As The Locals Do
Contributing Diva: Angela Rocco DeCarlo

by Angela Rocco DeCarlo
copyright 2017

Laguna Beach, California, resembles the Italian Amalfi Coast – at least to we Italian Americans. So naturally, we wanted to enjoy it with our four DeCarlo grandchildren, aged 12 to 19. Getting them together was a feat we relished.
However, we had to be sure there was something for everyone to enjoy. So we concocted an afternoon itinerary which included diving into the frothy surf,  lunch as Las Brisas, with a quick detour next door to the Laguna Art Museum.
Actually, I had read a review of the “Ben Messick: Memories of Los Angeles” exhibit and thought it would be wonderful to see and perfect for our little artist, Serritella. But how to entice the baseball and hockey players, Sam and Andrew,  as well as college girl, Michelle?
The genius of our plan included the “Holy Grail” of any Laguna Beach visit – a parking space – with apologies to the illustrious legend. While Laguna is gorgeous, traffic and parking are ugly.
So we zeroed in on lunch at an old favorite, Las Brisas restaurant, with its valet parking lot and were perfectly located to do everything easily without lost time or much walking. I really appreciated the front desk people who were very accommodating. They were terrific.
Through the years we’ve hosted many friends, as well as visitors from our hometown, Chicago, to the perfect views from Las Brisas patio, dining room and pavilion. Our fathers came together at ages 86 and 88, as did my beloved late sister, Cookie. Our Midwestern visitors adored the venue. And we enjoyed sharing it with them.
As for us, we had always enjoyed our visits. I recall the quiet ambiance of the dining room and the delicious foods.  However, I remembered the food and prices differently than currently. The place has been spruced up, with the menu prices rising up, too. I’m sorry to say the food is not as I remember.
When reviewing the menu, I experienced a bit of sticker shock looking at the lunch menu. The two boys ordered “surf & turf” at $28 each, for two rather smallish enchiladas. The appetizer of fried calamari was a bit sparse, too. The bread basket had four rolls for six diners and was too spicy for the girls to enjoy. Of course, our request for others was honored.
The girls opted for off-menu chicken fingers which didn’t seem to tickle their fancy.  My quesadilla mysteriously had a slight flavor of horseradish which the server couldn’t account for.
Due to the configuration of table to wall the unfortunate server couldn’t navigate easily and I ended up with a brief shower of some warm liquid on my head and down the back of my linen jacket. As we were celebrating two birthdays, and the restaurant had graciously provided candled coconut flan, I  had no desire in casting a cloud, so I let it go. As we were leaving management stopped by with an apology and offer to take care of the cleaning bill. I let that go, too.
On our first trip to California, decades ago, my Chicago Austin High School classmate, Karen Peterson Ursini, insisted we take the children to Laguna Beach, because, she said, “It’s the prettiest beach.” And from the vantage point of the singular situation of Las Brisas restaurant, overlooking the beautiful “Pacicis” Ocean, as our youngest christened it so long ago, she was right – the location is spectacularly beautiful…heavenly. The natural combination of sea and sky is enhanced by the lovely gardens surrounding the building.
After lunch, the beach is easily reached by ramp and staircase in front of the rose gardens which frames Las Brisas. The younger kids enjoyed jumping into the surf following lunch and museum visit.
The Ben Messick exhibit at the Laguna Art Museum was intriguing with his images of daily life in Los Angeles during the Great Depression and World War II. Printed material stated Messick has lived in an apartment at 2600 W. 8th Street, Los Angeles, so he painted what he saw in nearby MacArthur Park (formerly Westlake Park).
All in all it was a satisfying enterprise. Well worth the nearly 90 miles of driving up and down the curving Pacific Coast Highway. The kids enjoyed being together, though they are obviously not as awed by the scenery as Midwestern folk who can truly appreciate the stellar spectacle of having the Pacific Ocean, with leaping dolphin, hints of whale spouts, in front of their faces.
If only there were a magic, which could bring together at Laguna our old Chicago family with our new California family, that would be truly spectacular.

Las Brisas Restaurant
361 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
$7, general admission; $5, students, seniors, active
military, FREE, children under 12.

Pacific Ocean
Open daily, FREE.

Angela Rocco DeCarlo, formerly covered travel, entertainment, culture for the Chicago Tribune, Las Vegas Review Journal and Disney Magazine.

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