What’s Coming Up in Arts & Culture for 2023?

2022 was a year of recovery, while 2023 appears to be a year of reinvention in local arts and culture.

The big productions are back, as are the experimental, edgy and boundary-pushing shows. From “The Killer Angels” at Maverick Theater in Fullerton to Pilobolus at Musco Center in Orange, a sense of experimentation and exploration seems to have reinvigorated Orange County’s venues and presenting organizations. The Chicago Symphony – one of the world’s great orchestras – is coming to Segerstrom Concert Hall later this month, and area cultural festivals are back at full force.

Here’s a look at the best in theater, dance, visual arts, classical music, culture and food for the early part of 2023, brought to you by Voice of OC’s talented team of arts and culture writers.   

THEATER

Good old-fashioned human drama is the order of the day for Voice of OC’s selections for the most tantalizing theater productions on the horizon. Our picks encompass everything from one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War to the tensions surrounding two different families in the Deep South – one in the 1930s, one in the 2010s – to two contemporary suburban couples who personify the magnitude of denial as a coping mechanism. All four productions should whet your appetite for the second half of Orange County’s 2022-2023 theater season. — Eric Marchese

‘Voices of America’

When: Feb. 5-26
Where: South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: $20 to $98
Contact: 714-708-5500, scr.org

Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes” and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Appropriate” will run in rotating repertory, alternating nightly and using the same set and overlapping casts, but with two directors (Lisa Peterson for “Little Foxes,” Delicia Turner Sonnenberg for “Appropriate”). Both plays approach the ever-reliable theater themes of family, history and legacy in different ways, so those who see both will be able to study how playwrights from different eras explore similar material. Hellman’s drama, a celebrated classic since its 1939 premiere, dissects multiple aspects of the American Dream by depicting the interaction of three siblings in Alabama, circa 1900, as they jockey for the control of a multi-million dollar family business. “Appropriate” similarly zeroes in on a Southern clan: This time, we’re in Arkansas in the mid-2010s as estranged family members gather at a crumbling plantation to prepare for its sale. As in the earlier play, the focal events force the story’s characters to confront long-repressed facts and feelings. The comedic-dramatic play, touted by The New York Times as “remarkable,” “devious” and “subversively original,” won the 2014-2015 Obie Award for Best American Play.

‘The Realistic Joneses’

When: April 26 – May 14
Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Drive, Laguna Beach
Cost: $56 to $81
Contact: 949-497-2787, lagunaplayhouse.com

Anyone who knows Will Eno knows that since 2004, with plays like “The Flu Season” and “Thom Pain (based on nothing),” the playwright has been a singular, insightful voice in American theater who has been called “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.” So prepare for Laguna Playhouse’s Orange County premiere of Eno’s “The Realistic Joneses,” a profound look at two suburban couples, both named Jones, who discover they have a lot more in common than their identical houses and surnames. The Playhouse summarizes the 2014 play as “spare, suggestive, slyly hilarious and strangely maddening, exploring … the role that denial plays in helping us navigate life’s chaos,” and The New York Times review of the Broadway production noted that the characters portrayed by Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts “possess an uncanny otherness expressed through their stylized, disordered way of communicating” and that Eno’s words “cut to the heart of how we muddle through the worst life can bring.” So when you catch this production, expect the unexpected – and to be enlightened and emotionally moved.

‘The Killer Angels: Soldiers of Gettysburg’

When: May 12 – July 3
Where: Maverick Theater, 110 W. Walnut Ave., Fullerton
Cost: TBA
Contact: 714-526-7070, mavericktheater.com

An Orange County original, “The Killer Angels: Soldiers of Gettysburg” is a gripping stage re-creation, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning 1974 novel of the same name, of one of the Civil War’s most crucial battles. Maverick Theater fans and Civil War enthusiasts alike have been waiting for founder and artistic director Brian Newell to resurrect his 2017 stage adaptation of Michael Shaara’s historical novel. Newell’s stage version, subtitled “Soldiers of Gettysburg,” follows the book in depicting the three-day Battle of Gettysburg and the movement of Union and Confederate troops that led up to it. The dramatic play also gives audiences a behind-the-scenes look at decisive moments, whether effective strategies or blunders, made on both sides. The last three performances of the run – July 1-3 – coincide with the 160th anniversary of the historic 1863 battle, and the production’s closing date of July 3 falls 160 years to the day of Pickett’s Charge – the infantry assault ordered by General Robert E. Lee that ended disastrously for the Confederate forces and which figures so prominently in “The Killer Angels.”

DANCE

Consider Orange County’s spring dance offerings to be a lineup of human-centered stories, where real people and real emotions take center stage. Maybe it’s those two years we lost, or maybe it’s just coincidence, but the region’s 2023 dance scene is full of creativity, color and charisma. In chronological order, here are a select few dance events that are not to be missed due to the programs including iconic or brand new works. – Kaitlin Wright

Ballet X

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 24
Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine
Cost: Tickets start at $30
Contact: thebarclay.org or 949-854-4646

Philadelphia-based BalletX has produced 116 new ballet works and counting, making it a force of innovation that few companies can compete with. In its return to Orange County, the company brings an exciting repertory program that features three West Coast premieres, including Tiler Peck’s “Umoja.” “Umoja” is the Swahili word for “unity,”which is what Peck as choreographer feels like we needed after a long period of isolation. The program also includes “Fancy Me,” “It’s Not a Cry,” “Honey” and “Exalt.”

Pilobolus celebrates 50 years with a repertory performance that spans works from the 70s to now. Credit: Photo courtesy of Pilobolus/Julianna Sohn

Pilobolus

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23
Where: Musco Center for the Arts, 337 N. Cypress St., Orange
Cost: Start at $25
Contact: muscocenter.org or 714-997-6812

The athlete-illusionist dancers of Pilobolus are celebrating over 50 years of performances, appearing in notable events such as the Oscars and the Olympics. For its “ Big Five Oh!” tour, the company will perform a selection of pieces from vintage and visionary, reimagined for the current dancers and stages. Audiences can expect to see organic shapes and natural beauty in a work from 1978 called “Shizen,” feel the strength of movement in “Megawatt” and explore the history of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Pilobolus’s latest work “The Ballad.”

Cassandra Trenary and Daniel Camargo will perform in “Like Water for Chocolate.” Credit: Photo courtesy of ABT/Fabrizio Ferri

‘Like Water for Chocolate,’ American Ballet Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. March 29-31 and April 1; 2 p.m. April 1-2
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: Start at $29
Contact: scfta.org or 714-556-2787

American Ballet Theatre will perform the North American premiere of “Like Water for Chocolate” at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The three-act ballet is a co-production with the Royal Ballet from the award-winning team of choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and composer Joby Talbot, with costumes by Bob Crowley. Set during the Mexican Civil War in the early 20th century, the story follows a young woman who’s only form of expression is through cooking. The newest original ballet by ABT is based on the book of the same name by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel and promises an intriguing experience that includes food, magic, a frustrated love affair and, of course, some ballet.

VISUAL ARTS

As far as Orange County art institutions are concerned, the coronavirus pandemic is a distant memory. In-person exhibitions, receptions and auctions are back, and museums, galleries and art centers are pushing in new directions. But they haven’t forgotten the tried and true shows that helped get them to where they are today.

Below are four exhibitions and events worth checking out. Two that made the honorable mention list are “Made in California” at Brea Art Gallery (April 29-June 23) and “California Impressionists 1865-2022” featuring contemporary works by Rick Delanty (March 16-June 4) at Casa Romantica in San Clemente.  – Richard Chang

‘Figures, Poses, and Glances: The Coded Illustrations of J.C. Leyendecker’

When: Feb. 18-April 9; hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays
Where: Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center, 241 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim
Cost: $7-$10
Contact: (714) 765-6466 or muzeo.org

While the Begovich Gallery and the Visual Arts Complex undergo major renovations at Cal State Fullerton, the shows must go on. In fact, the Begovich Gallery is teaming up with Muzeo to present works by one of the most prolific American artists of the 20th century and the Golden Age of American illustration. J.C. Leyendecker drew and painted more than 320 covers for the Saturday Evening Post, and produced covers for Collier’s Magazine and Fortune, and numerous advertisements for Arrow Collars and Kuppenheimer clothes. Leyendecker was an early champion of queer culture and identity. The curator of this exhibit is Clark Silva, an MA candidate in art history at CSUF.

California Cool 41st Annual Auction

When: Feb. 18-March 4; Benefit & Bash at 6:30 p.m. March 4
Where: Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach
Cost: Admission is  $9-$12; benefit tickets are $160 and higher
Contact: (949) 494-8971 or lagunaartmuseum.org/auction

Laguna Art Museum’s 41st annual California Cool auction will feature works by more than 125 Golden State artists, including Lita Albuquerque, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha and others. Works will hang in the museum from Feb. 18-March 4; regular admission gets you in to see all the works. Meanwhile, the auction will open on the Artsy website on Feb. 18. A Benefit & Bash will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. March 4, featuring artists, collectors, food, cocktails and a performance by Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats. Proceeds will benefit the museum’s education and exhibition initiatives.

‘The Bruton Sisters: Modernism in the Making’

When: Feb. 4-May 6
Where: UCI Langson Institute and Museum of California Art
Cost: Free
Contact: (949) 476-0003 or imca.uci.edu

The Bruton sisters – Margaret, Esther and Helen – were pioneers of modern art in California. They were known for their innovative use of materials, creative approach to design and fruitful collaborative relationships. This exhibition will feature 18 works from Langson IMCA’s permanent collection, as well as several loans from private collections and the Monterey Museum of Art. The show is curated by Wendy Van Wyck Good, an author, librarian and historian, and the leading expert on the Bruton sisters. 

‘Daniel Arsham: Wherever You Go, There You Are’ and ‘Alice Neel: Feels Like Home’ 

When: Feb. 17-May 28 for Arsham; June 23-Oct. 22 for Neel
Where: Orange County Museum of Art, 3333 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa
Cost: Free
Contact: (714) 780-2130 or ocma.art

The new O.C. Museum of Art will present the first major U.S. museum exhibition for Daniel Arsham, who works across sculpture, architecture, drawing and photography to investigate ideas of history, symbology and the material nature of time. 

Alice Neel was an accomplished figurative painter, and “Feels Like Home” will feature 40 paintings from the artist’s estate examining the roles of kinship, chosen family and the importance of community. 

Later in 2023, OCMA will feature the first U.S. museum solo exhibitions for Chinese artist Yu Ji and California artist Jennifer Guidi.   

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Spring is busting out all over in Orange County’s classical music world. But now, post-COVID, not only are the offerings plentiful and starry, they reflect a new spirit of innovation and inclusion, of experimentation and reappraisal. Things are getting more interesting. My own three picks below aren’t the most daring offerings, but, rather, sure things for almost every listener. — Timothy Mangan

Conductor Riccardo Muti Credit: Photo courtesy of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County/Todd Rosenberg

Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Riccardo Muti

When: 8 p.m., Jan. 24
Where: Segerstrom Concert Hall, 615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: $58-$358
Contact: philharmicsociety.org

The Chicago Symphony has long been among the world’s greatest orchestras, reliable deliverers of definitive performances of the classics. Current music director Riccardo Muti continues the traditions of his venerable predecessors Fritz Reiner and Georg Solti with formidable, muscular and precision accounts. These musicians bring us a program that aims to conquer, starting with Beethoven’s epic Symphony No. 7, taking a deep breath with Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake, before laying into the technicolor brilliance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as orchestrated by Ravel.

Pianist Jeremy Denk Credit: Photo courtesy of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County/Sjervom ;aomez

Laguna Beach Music Festival with Jeremy Denk

When: 8 p.m., Feb. 17-18; 3 p.m. Feb. 19
Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
Cost: $38-$58
Contact: philharmonicsociety.org

Jeremy Denk is this generation’s answer to Charles Rosen and Alfred Brendel, a deep thinker and scholar of music, an author, and a brilliant pianist. As this year’s director of the Laguna Beach Music Festival, he invites some of his musician friends as guests (among them the charismatic violinist Stefan Jackiw) and offers three delightful programs. His solo recital (on Feb. 18), mixing works by Bach, Schubert, Coleridge-Taylor, Wiggins, Joplin and Rzewski, and winding up with Beethoven’s final sonata, Op. 111, is the perfect opportunity to hear the range of his talents, the intimacy of his delivery and the exacting virtuosity of his technique.

Conductor, composer, and clarinetist, Teddy Abrams. Credit: Photo courtesy of Pacific Symphony/Christopher Briscoe

Pacific Symphony with Teddy Abrams 

When: 8 p.m., June 1-3
Where: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: $25-$203
Contact: pacificsymphony.org

Teddy Abrams is that rare young talent in classical music, a triple threat: composer, conductor and solo performer, on clarinet. With Carl St.Clair having recently announced an eventual retirement as music director of the Pacific Symphony, every guest conductor will be scrutinized as a potential replacement. Abrams, the leader of a revitalized Louisville Orchestra, comes to the plate with his own Overture in Sonata Form and Stravinsky’s intricately colorful ballet, Petrushka. In between he is joined by Canadian pianist Louis Lortie, a scintillating perfectionist, for the ever-pleasing Piano Concerto by Grieg. 

CULTURE

Although the last few years have been tough for event organizers to execute their full scope, it seems this is the year that more events and celebrations are attempting to return to full swing — and attendance is expected to be high. 

Though picking this year’s cultural roundup of events was no easy feat, below are a few events to consider as a day out with the family, whether that be entertainment or volunteer driven. — Kristina Garcia

Volunteers cleanup Upper Newport Bay during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Credit: Photo courtesy of Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Upper Newport Bay

When: 9 a.m-11 a.m., Jan. 28 (may be rescheduled depending on rain)
Where: Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center, 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach
Cost: Free — must RSVP here
Contact: (714) 708-3885, insidetheoutdoors.org

When civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the legislation to dedicate a day of observance in his honor was already making its push four days later. 

Despite its overwhelming support, it wasn’t until 1983 that former President Ronald Regan reluctantly signed the bill into law, making King’s birthday a federal holiday. 

Moving forward 11 years later, former President Bill Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act into law to encourage Americans to volunteer on this day and help build their communities. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday dedicated to a national day of service, according to the Smithsonian.

But how many people have actually used this federal holiday as “a day on, not a day off,” as the late Congressman John Lewis once described it?

If you’ve found yourself among the latter or trying to find something to do on this national day of service, then bring the family and stop by the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center where volunteers will assist with restoration activities in the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, one of the last remaining coastal wetlands in California. 

Volunteers will help clean up the approved areas in the wetland with gloves, buckets and bags provided. It’s recommended to wear closed-toe shoes and bring a reusable water bottle.

“We’ve found everything from office chairs out on the Back Bay to tires. We’ve seen a lot,” said Yarib Dheming, outreach manager for Inside the Outdoors. “Especially after the rain, when the tide comes in. I mean, there’s a lot of trash that comes into that wetland, which is the largest in Orange County.”

The event is in partnership with the city of Newport Beach and Orange County Parks and will be hosted by Inside the Outdoors, a hands-on environmental education program administered by the Orange County Department of Education.

Nearly a 50-year program, Inside the Outdoors provides outdoor field trips for students throughout the school year, as well as community events and service learning components. 

“This is an opportunity for everyone to kind of get involved in this type of work, and I think it connects everybody to their local environment,” Dheming said. “Family engagement is something that we’re really big on …. This is an opportunity for (students) to bring their family back to these locations.”

This event may be canceled due to weather; check for possible updates on the day of the event through Inside the Outdoors’ social media pages. 

Union of Vietnamese Student Associations Tết Festival 2023

When: 4-10 p.m. Jan. 27, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Jan. 28, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Jan. 29 
Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: $8, free admission for children 2 years and younger; free admission 11 a.m. to noon Jan. 28 for visitors dressed in traditional outfits, military and scout uniforms. 
Contact: (714) 576-6411, tetfestival.org

Lunar New Year is regarded as one of the most important celebrations in Vietnamese, Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian Cultures. Lunar New Year, or Tết Nguyên Đán in Vietnamese (sometimes shortened to Tết), celebrates the beginning of a new spring. 

While folks have a variety of Tết festivals to choose from in Orange County this Lunar New Year, it might be worth checking out the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations Tết Festival as it’s recognized as the largest Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival in the nation — entirely organized by student volunteers. 

2023 marks the Year of the Cat; the last Year of the Cat was 2011. According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the year of the rabbit. Chinese and Vietnamese cultures share the same zodiac signs except for two animals. 

While the change isn’t clear and is up for debate, one of the most common explanations is that the ancient word for rabbit in Chinese is pronounced “mao tu,” which sounds similar to the Vietnamese word “meo” for cat, according to the UVSA Tết Festival Instagram page. 

Ringing in the new year with UVSA also means celebrating this year’s theme, which is “Road to Our Homeland” or “Hướng Về Quê Hương” in Vietnamese.

The theme “Road to Our Homeland” came about as a way to reconnect to their roots, said Tết Marketing Director Ann Ninh, as UVSA brings back the festival to its original three-day span after the event was canceled in 2021 and shortened to two days in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Personally, I’m just looking forward to most seeing the festival come to fruition. I feel like everyone is putting a lot of efforts and we are a kind of volunteer, community-based event who are nonprofit, so everyone here in this organization really cares about the festival,” Ninh said.  

Racking in over 50,000 guests, the Tết Festival has plenty to enjoy whether it be performances such as the traditional lion dance, food, pageant night or competitions that put your appetite or skills to the test. 

While walking around the festival, it’s also worth checking out the Tết Festival’s Cultural Village, also known as Làng Việt Nam in Vietnamese, which serves as a replica of a traditional village in Vietnam. Attendees can stroll through Làng Việt Nam where visitors can immerse themselves in traditional Vietnamese architecture and explore the exhibits and galleries throughout the village. 

On each day of the festival, a traditional Vietnamese ceremony will take place in the Cultural Village. 

The first ceremony will be the Raising of the Bamboo, also known as Lễ Dựng Nêu, which is the raising of a tall piece of bamboo with a red scroll (containing a good luck message) and firecrackers to mark the beginning of Tết. 

The following day will be the Ancestral Altar Procession or Lễ Rước Kiệu Tổ, where individuals walk in a cultural procession carrying the altar of King Hung, the founder of the Vietnamese people and nation, and offerings to the prayer site. 

On the final day, a spring wedding or Đám Cưới Đầu Xuân, will be taking place featuring an actual bride and groom, lion dances, traditional tea offerings, a wedding procession and roasted pig. 

O.C. Lantern Festival 2023

When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Feb. 18
Where: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa 
Cost: Free — must RSVP  
Contact: (714) 755-5788, pacificsymphony.org

Celebrating the Year of the Rabbit, Pacific Symphony returns with its annual Lantern Festival or Yuan Xiao Jie, marking the end of the Lunar New Year celebration. 

Drawing in thousands of people, the O.C. Lantern Festival is a community event for attendees to appreciate the lanterns and find a means of letting go of the past to enjoy the future awaiting in the new year. 

Pacific Symphony is teaming up with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/Irvine Chinese School. Attendees can stop by the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa to celebrate the Lantern Festival with friends and family through food, music, dance, storytelling, art-making activities and riddles. 

Commemorating the occasion, the concert hall lobby will be reimagined with floating lanterns and the stage will be used for local performances. 

Starting the event will be the South Coast Chinese Orchestra and the Chinese Dance Company of Southern California and their performance of an original musical called “The Monkey King.”

“The Monkey King” is composed by He Bin, an instructor and director at the South Coast Chinese Orchestra. It tells the story of the Monkey King through traditional Chinese dance and martial arts, as well as traditional Chinese musical instruments mixed with Western stringed-instrument music.

This year also brings a new orchestra to the Pacific Symphony: the 2023 Lantern Festival Orchestra, which will be conducted by Jacob Sustaita, an assistant conductor for the Pacific Symphony.  

The orchestra will be made of local musicians, bringing the talents of students and non-professional adult string players to perform “a mix of Western and Eastern repertoire for string orchestra,” according to the Pacific Symphony website. 

On the night of the performance, professional musicians from the Pacific Symphony will also join the orchestra. 

While admission is free, the space is limited and an RSVP is required. 

Easter Eggstravaganza

When: March 11-April 8; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends; closed on Easter Sunday
Where: Irvine Park Railroad, 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange
Cost: Free admission, prices for activities vary, parking $3 on weekdays and $5 on weekends
Contact: (714) 997-3968, irvineparkrailroad.com

While Easter is still a few months from now, the Easter Eggstravaganza begins its operations almost a month earlier than the holiday, so if the family needs to be occupied till then, the Easter Eggstravaganza may be the perfect spot for families with young children.  

Upon arrival, guests will take a 12-minute train ride through Irvine Regional Park leading visitors to the spring festivities that await. 

Located behind the train station, Easter Eggstravaganza returns to the Irvine Park Railroad and invites families for activities, games and food in the spirit of Easter. 

While entrance to the event is free, the activities use tickets for $7 each or a book of 15 tickets for $90, and a parking pass is also required. 

One of the activities offered is the Easter Egg Hunt, using two tickets per child. Children between the ages of 2 and 12 are eligible to participate in the Easter Egg Hunt, where they can bring their own Easter basket or purchase one onsite. Throughout the day are several sessions with varying age groups for the children to attend. 

The Easter eggs will be filled with treats, stickers or special prizes, including train tickets for the Irvine Park Railroad, Orange County Zoo passes, and coupons for rentals at the park.

Don’t forget a picture with the Easter bunny. For $15, children can meet the mascot, have their picture taken and receive a copy of the photo. 

Other activities include a bounce house, carnival games, photo-ops, face painting, hay rides and egg basket toss.

If visitors choose to leave early from the event, they can explore the rest of the park and stop by the Orange County Zoo, which is a 5-minute walk from the event. 

The Easter Eggstravaganza is open seven days a week but will be closed on Easter Sunday. 

FOOD

Tustin and Newport Beach spots offer comfort and indulgence in the new year by way of solid Italian cuisine, international bites, social wine dinners and the relocation of a local watering hole. — Anne Marie Panoringan

Bocci light installation and kitchen view of Joey Newport Beach. Credit: Photo courtesy of Christina Gandolfo, CGandolfo Pictures, Inc.

Joey Restaurant

When: Opening Jan. 19
Where: 453 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach
Cost: Entrees start at $21
Contact: joeyrestaurants.com

Launching its first Orange County destination, Joey Newport Beach not only brings lunch and dinner service but a duo of happy hours to Fashion Island. The Canadian-based restaurant group will offer a global menu inspired by multiple cuisines including Asian, Mexican and French thanks to Executive Director of Culinary (and “Top Chef Canada” winner) Matthew Stowe. Local artwork, a retractable roof plus outdoor fire pit in its nearly 2,000-square-foot patio breathe new life into the former Roy’s dining room.

The Parlor at Stafford Prime

When: Opening Jan. 23 
Where: 15771 Red Hill Ave., Tustin
Cost: Pastas start at $12
Contact: theparlorsp.com

Stafford Prime refers to chef Jimmy Stafford and his initial venture into Orange County back in 2016 as a part-time personal chef. Stafford Prime transitioned from a catering and meal delivery service to exclusively meal delivery throughout the pandemic. Located next door to Rye Goods in Tustin, the Italian-focused menu will specialize in a trifecta of seasonal pastas, pizzas and salads as well as morning offerings including espresso beverages and a modest selection of pastries.  

The primarily take-out space (a stretch of bar stools plus 10-seat “Mafia table” in the pasta/meat curing room are the only dining spaces available) makes incredibly efficient use of its 1,800 square feet. Expect classic Neapolitan style pizzas from The Parlor’s almond and olive wood-burning oven utilizing 48-hour fermented yeast dough. Housemade gelato will also be served.

Interior of the original Stowaway Tiki bar. Credit: Photo courtesy of Stowaway Tiki

Stowaway Tiki’s Relocation

When: Reopening spring 2023
Where: 14401 Newport Ave., Tustin
Cost: varies 
Contact: stowawaytiki.com

Due to circumstances out of its control, Stowaway’s home within The District at Tustin Legacy’s Union Market food hall was forced to close in early November. However the rum-fueled watering hole has washed ashore a short jaunt away. 

“We are super happy to let our loyal ohana know that we are staying in Tustin,” said Leonard Chan of The Alchemists Consulting Group. 

Conveniently located off of the 5 Freeway at Newport and McFadden Avenues (formerly Marty’s on Newport), it will be getting a bit of a redesign from the original location. “We hope you are looking forward to the same quality grub and grog as much as we are,” Chan said. 

Chef Sandro Nardone of Bello. Credit: Photo courtesy of Bello by Sandro Nardone

Wine Dinners at Bello by Sandro Nardone

When: Feb. 8 
Where: 1200 Bison Ave., Suite C2, Newport Beach
Cost: $125 (plus tax and gratuity)
Contact: bellobysandronardone.com

The team at Bello is preparing for a series of wine dinners in 2023. The first one is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 8 and will be featuring bottles from Melville Estate. Highlights of the five-course evening include ditali pasta with wild boar and smoked then roasted duck breast paired with varying styles of pinot noir. Tickets are now available for this limited seating.


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