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Young Chang -- Dining Review

June 14, 2001

I heard my eggs getting beat.

I'm sure they were mine because I had just ordered them and because

the other patrons at Cafe Carluccio looked settled in with their bit-into

muffins and half-filled coffees.

From my little table near the back window, with my half-devoured

raspberry croissant and cappuccino muffin, I listened to the clink of egg

beater against bowl and thought, "Tomorrow's another day."

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The omelet arrived. It was average-sized -- the size you'd make at

home -- neighbored by three mini-baguette slices and a tab of butter. I

dug in. What's 300 more calories? I'd lost control 10 minutes ago anyway.

I told the owner this. Her name is Nancy Poetes. She has an incredibly

satiating laugh that's audible even from across the room. I told Nancy I

had just blown my whole low-carb diet and she let out one of her joyous

laughs. I laughed too, partly entertained, partly defeated.

She offered, "There's always tomorrow!"

Barely bigger than a very large living room, as modest as your own

kitchen after the guests have left, it's instantly obvious that the

oceanfront Newport Beach coffee shop is a regular's place buzzing with

server-customer chatter.

Patrons walk in without their purses, as if they've just come from

next door. Mothers walk by with young children and wave to Nancy. Others

enter looking just-woken, hair not yet tamed. It's possible Nancy is one

of the first people they see every morning, her un-burnt coffee is their

jolt for the day.

The breakfast menu includes croissants, scones, muffins (even

pineapple flavored), bear claws, omelets, granola, waffles, and

buttermilk pancakes with blueberries ($6.75) -- the fluffiest stack of

them you've ever seen.

They're light yet buttery and mined with real blueberries that were

assuredly never frozen and so fresh that they pop and smear when handled

too rough.

The raspberry croissant ($1.85) had raspberry and cream cheese filling

inside. The outside was flaky and gloriously shiny with the stuffing

oozing just a little bit at both ends.

The cappuccino muffin ($1.50) did indeed taste of cappuccino, while

confettis of mini-morsel chocolate chips scattered here, there,

everywhere confirmed that I had made the right choice. It was either this

or the double chocolate muffin.

And the omelet ($6.25) was comfortingly familiar with three eggs

wrapped around fresh cheddar and ham. It's the omelet your mother makes

when you're home to visit, the omeletthat comes out perfect every time.

Cafe Carluccio also serves lunch -- a menu including chicken salad,

pasta salad, paninis and other sandwiches -- and a tempting list of

dessert pies.

My only caution: if you're on any sort of diet, best to stay away.

Look what happened to me.

* YOUNG CHANG is features writer for the Daily Pilot. STEPHEN

SANTACROCE is on vacation.

FYI

* WHAT: Cafe Carluccio

* WHERE: 2201 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach

* COST: Inexpensive

* CALL: (949) 675-7004

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