Our latest issue out now!Fall 2017
With a stated mission to provide rustic Italian food in a welcoming, friendly, and relaxed setting, Brick appears to be living up to its commitment. The restaurant also does an excellent job living up to the name. With exposed brick walls and chunky, rustic furnishings, one expects a jovial Italian uncle to emerge from the back and wave you excitedly to your table as he chatters with a heavy, Italian accent.
While that wasn’t really the case, the staff at Brick did greet us warmly and soon we were seated at one of the tall booths running down one side of the restaurant. Taking in more of the details inside, Brick uses exposed beams, thick wooden tables, and clean lighting to create an inviting atmosphere. And like a giant heart beating in the middle of everything, a large copper-clad pizza oven glows with a wood fire, providing the element that helps create virtually everything that comes out of the open kitchen.
And when something does come out of the kitchen, Brick’s Executive Chef and Owner, David Pratt makes sure that the ingredients are the freshest available. Through a partnership with VR Farms in San Clemente, Pratt ensures access to high quality produce, including Calabrian peppers grown exclusively for the restaurant. Underscoring their commitment to the San Clemente community, additional seasonal produce is secured at the local farmer’s market. For proteins, Brick takes a snout-to-tail approach to pork, butchering an entire pig in-house and breaking it down for sausages, sauces, and a specialty of the house – porchetta. Other ingredients are sourced using a farm-to-table approach and represent the best seasonal and year-round meats and produce available. Such a laser focus on the quality of ingredients across the board suggests that whatever we ordered would serve as a shining example of delicious, rustic Italian cuisine.
But every good Italian meal begins with a good drink. Again, Brick uses fresh ingredients to create a range of signature cocktails. We tried the Calabrian Margarita, which uses those locally-sourced peppers to add a little kick, as well as a Blackberry Daquiri. Both drinks were very good and the use of fresh ingredients was apparent. Brick also features a solid wine list that highlights Italian wines, while still providing a range of choices for those seeking other options, either by the glass, the carafe, or the bottle. A list of draft beers covers a good range of approachable styles from solid craft breweries and is rounded out with a few selections by the bottle.
With drinks in hand, it was time to dive into the menu and experience some of the interesting appetizers to get things started. Crispy zucchini blossoms stuffed with Ricotta cheese made it to the table, along with the pizza bread antipasti and stuffed Medjool dates. Everything was delicious and represented a wide range of flavors while remaining authentically Italian.
On to the salad course. I had been told that the Caesar salad at Brick was a special experience. The freshness and flavors represented by the crispy greens and bright red cherry tomatoes underscored the restaurant’s commitment to freshness. The dressing was applied with a deft touch, so as not to overpower the taste of the fresh ingredients and what seemed like more salad than we could finish quickly disappeared from the platter.
Brick offers many of the menu items in two sizes – individual and family, so ordering for a group and sharing is encouraged and adds to the Italian style of their approach. We decided to try the ravioli and the meatballs in family-sized portions, and rounded out the choices with a couple of pizzas – the traditional Margherita, as well as the Porchetta. The ravioli was a rich blend of pork, porcini and butternut squash, complemented with a drizzle of brown butter-sage. The meatballs were substantial in size and came out in a hot, cast-iron pan that must have come straight from the wood-fired oven. The house-made marinara sauce provided a tangy accompaniment to the rich blend of ingredients in the meatballs themselves and a side of spaghetti added a pasta element to round out the course.
As far as the pizzas, having an authentic, wood burning oven already gives any restaurant like Brick a leg up over other pizza places. But in this instance, the quality of the ingredients in combination with the traditional cooking method puts Brick in a category with few others. The Margherita pizza was delicious in its simplicity, just as the Porchetta pizza used the house-prepared pork to good effect in creating a richer culinary experience. While it seems that pizza today focuses on more toppings and an overabundance of cheese, David Pratt’s kitchen embraces the simplicity of authentic Italian fare with amazing results. Both pizzas had the thin, crispy crust that eludes many, and a judicious use of quality ingredients created a balance that was simply delicious.
While little room was left for dessert, any good reviewer needs to sample a range of menu items. The Chocolate Budino and Peach Semifreddo arrived with a trio of gelato flavors to accompany them and none of the dessert course disappointed. The Budino is like a chocolate pudding or custard, and it proved to be a decadently rich finish to the meal. The Semifreddo featured fresh peaches and once again underscored Brick’s commitment to quality and freshness. The gelato rounded out the dessert offerings nicely and proved the old adage true that “there’s always room for ice cream.”
From a stated philosophy dedicated to a quality dining experience, to a commitment to source the freshest local ingredients, Brick is “walking the walk” and our recent experience confirmed that. With a welcoming, efficient staff and a warm, inviting space in which to relax and enjoy authentic Italian food, Brick is an excellent choice for a romantic dinner for two as much as it also works for a boisterous group to share the cornucopia of delights that stream out of that big, wood-fired oven. With that oven at its core, I expect Brick to continue to deliver on David Pratt’s vision and to remain a haven for quality dining in San Clemente for a long time to come.
216 El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672