Listen to Merle on "Real Talk with Jim Lisa"
April 16, 2021
WHEN THE MOON HITS YOUR EYESImagine yourself along with five other friends or family relaxing in a true Venetian gondola sharing a couple of pizzas, salad and garlic bread. Dean Martin or perhaps Andrea Bocelli is singing in the background and the water is clear. No, you’re not in Italy, but rather Long Beach, California.
There I was in the area known as Naples Island enjoying a non-party experience that Gondola Getaway offers. Tables and chairs ala Italian style are set up just outside of the ticket booth as you are welcome to bring your own food and drink aboard or simply sit there and take in the scene. I don’t think that you’ll just want to sit there.
Not all of the gondolas look the same as many are used for a more romantic style sitting as you face the waters. Our gondolier had already been to Italy having gone through a Venetian competition. He is tall, dressed in a short sleeve striped shirt with a brimmed hat.
The tour takes me past hundreds of homes all differently built with various tones of lighter colors. We view the oldest house, most expensive one, as well as one that is “green” with large windows to utilize the energy of the sun’s rays.
We pass under bridges that bring the echoes of the music and the gondolier’s voice as he continues sharing tons of information about the people and places around Naples Island.
Then there are those that concoct their own “gondolier” experience using what appears to be a long surfboard as they too paddle along the waterway.
Most unexpected are some underwater swimmers such as sea lions who pop up when you least expect it.
Laguna di Lights, the Christmas season offers a “Venetian sleigh ride”. Harbor lights, homes and boats are wonderfully decorated. Gondola Getaway is located at 5437 East Ocean Blvd. 562-433-9595 or www.gondo.net.
It’s downtown Long Beach where I found an authentic Nouveau Italian restaurant, La Traviata, designed in the Nineteenth Century Opera Style, complete with and opera singer. As Sheryl Smith (hey, you’re in Long Beach) belted a La Boheme aria, an appetizer of lobster ravioli was presented. The ravioli itself was more on the thinner side allowing me to taste the combination of lobster and mascarpone cheese.
Chilean Sea Bass, baked with miso glaze, topped with tobiko caviar and ponzu sauce was served over a bed of jasmine rice ( I just love the aroma) and asparagus. (I said, “Nouveau”).
Cleanse the palate with some strawberry vs lemon sorbet and then onto grilled filet mignon finished with a green peppercorn and mustard brandy sauce as owner Mario Nasab greets each of the patrons.
What best way to top a meal than with a shot of imported limoncello. I had forgotten how delicious this after dinner drink tasted. Sweet, but not sugary sweet and not a hint of tartness.
La Traviata Restaurant is located at 301 Cedar Avenue, 562-432-8022. www.latraviata301.com
November 25, 2010 - Giornale Italo Americano
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