by Mira Reverente
Dreaming of an Italian getaway or food-based vacation this summer? Look no further than Agoura Hills and Osteria Orto.
Opened in May, the restaurant’s earthy decor recalls the rustic ambiance of a Tuscan villa with lots of charm and character. The food is another story, inspired by the Marche region of Italy from where chef and co-owner Francesco Pesce hails. “I would call it traditional with a bit of fusion – a fusion of flavors,” he said. “There’s a lot of pasta dishes, of course, and fish.”
Pesce began his culinary journey at the age of 13, attending culinary school and apprenticing with a well-known chef back in Italy. He travelled across Europe, sharpening his kitchen skills at a string of restaurants in England, Spain, Greece, Germany, Poland and the Canary Islands.
His travels eventually took him to California in 2010 where he met co-owner Giuseppe “Pino” Segreto at a restaurant in Calabasas. “We kept meeting and saying we should open a restaurant together so we did,” he said.
These two friends have similar backgrounds, with Segreto also having worked his way up the culinary ladder from the age of 13, traveling the world and soaking in local cuisines. Segreto arrived in the US about 25 years ago after a jaunt through his native Italy then Australia and the UK. “I fell in love with California so I stayed,” said the seasoned restaurateur who counts Valentino, Ago, Toscana and Gravina among the popular spots he has opened.
As in his Italian coastal home region, Pesce prefers to follow the seasons when it comes to preparing food. “I like to use available, in-season ingredients from the local farmers markets,” he said.
For the summer, expect more refreshing and light dishes such as salmon and Alaskan halibut, or light starters and salads like the chilled octopus salad, Kumamoto oysters and beef carpaccio, all made in-house. Also expect authentic, top-notch entrees with imported ingredients like cheese and salami from Italy.
Make sure to save room for dessert, which tends to change almost daily. “There is no dessert menu because we like variety and we make desserts available based on what customers like,” he said, adding that old-time favorites like tiramisu and panna cotta are usually available.
Pesce is looking forward to hosting more gatherings and wedding parties looking for an authentic, garden-style backdrop. If you’re in town this Fourth of July, take a peek at what Osteria Orto has to offer. “Come for authentic, simple and honest food. It’s like eating in Italy. You won’t be disappointed,” Pesce said.
Osteria Orto is located at 5719 Lake Lindero Dr, Agoura Hills. Phone: (818) 735-3530
For more information, visit osteriaorto.com