That is where he got his first glimpse of real Southern-style barbecue — Not the "boiled or baked ribs with weak sauce" places that seem to be all over Orange County. DeCinces envisioned an authentic rib joint and took meticulous steps to make sure it happened. He and some partners opened The Beach Pit BBQ in Costa Mesa.
To ensure authenticity, DeCinces and his partners, along with his manager, made a trip down South to learn more about barbecuing. It was as DeCinces described, "barbecue bootcamp." The trip was successful, as the team discovered more about the smoking process of meat and what types of wood are best.
They brought the knowledge back to Costa Mesa and used it at their barbecue joint that looks more like a friend's house than a restaurant, which is exactly the look DeCinces was going for with the décor.
The white picket fence holds a front dining area that has the feel of a summertime picnic area. In addition to the six bench tables, there is a small, fenced play area for children under 6 years old, complete with a playhouse.
Another nice touch is a brick circular firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs to the right of the entrance.
The inside looks more like a Southern barbecue joint. Tables upholstered with brown vinyl covering and nonmatching chairs are spread about the small area. The only hint of modernism is a flat-screen television mounted on the wall by the cashier.
The best bet is the two-meat combination plate. For $16.95, you get a choice between beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, sausage or spare ribs. There is also a three-item selection called the Alabama Slamma' but don't get that unless you haven't eaten in a couple of days.
For your two items, I would pick the pulled pork and the spare ribs. The pulled pork is the restaurant's specialty and is quite delicious. For the spare ribs, I picked pork, but you can also have baby back ribs. They were good, flaking easily off the bone.
The Beach Pit BBQ is a popular place, and DeCinces has opened a second one in Anaheim Stadium where his dad used to play.
While the younger DeCinces didn't make it as a ballplayer, he is well on his way to becoming a hall-of-fame restaurateur. It is the best place for barbecue in the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa area.
THE BEACH PIT BBQ
Address: 1676 Tustin Ave., Costa Mesa
Phone: (949) 645-RIBS (7427)
Specialty dish: Pulled Pork
Alcohol served: beer and wine
Family friendly: Very, play area and kids' menu
Credit cards accepted: MasterCard, Visa, American Express
Rating: 4 stars
JOHN REGER is the Pilot's restaurant critic. His reviews appear Thursdays.