When I think of beachside dining, I usually think of the famed Venice Beach boulevard, a perfect spot for brunch, a beer or two, people watching and being harassed by homeless people and/or incense vendors. Wouldn’t it be great to find a spot for an upscale meal near the beach, without having to fight the Santa Monica crowd? Fortunately, tucked away in Playa Del Rey, I found Caffe Pinguini.

Caffe Pinguini is authentic Italian (both owners are from Rome) that delivers exactly what you would expect from a fine Italian restaurant – great food prepared simply, a warm and inviting ambiance and impeccable service.

With 11 pastas to choose from, we start with the decadent Rigatoni Gorgonzola, clearly not for the faint of heart … or anyone with heart problems. The large rigatoni tubes are cooked perfectly al dente, and hold all the creamy, pungent goodness of the gorgonzola cheese. I would suggest splitting this pasta among four people, as it is a very rich dish and the portion will satisfy everyone.

For the main course, I had to go with the Veal Milanese, a breaded chop of veal with the bone attached, just in case you were wondering if you were a carnivore or not. Other mains include Filetto al Porto, a most tender filet cut with a hearty, but not overpowering, mushroom sauce, and the Zuppa di Mare, a steaming bowl of the sea’s finest with a spicy tomato-based broth.

Of course, what Italian meal would be complete without tiramisu? I’ve given up trying to figure out how to make tiramisu. I just eat it, sit back and smile contentedly.

I meant to ask why a fine Italian restaurant on the beach of Southern California is named after a penguin, but after dinner I was so full I forgot to ask!

For more information, call (310) 306-0117 or visit caffepinguini.com.