Sorry for the long wait on this - I've been extremely busy this week, and this is the first chance I've had to get this posted.
Anyway, we made it to Soprano's last Saturday night (1/17/04) before Cirque du Soleil's Varekai. We got to the restaurant slightly before 6:00. (She was able to leave work early that afternoon, thank goodness!) The other couple made it shortly after 6:00.
It wasn't too crowded when we got there (only one other couple was seated - and they were pretty much done with dinner), but the crowd started top grow and at about 6:30 or shortly thereafter, the place was packed. Soprano's seats about 30 (or just short of that). There's a bar area, and that probably seats 8 at most. As I mentioned before, they do take reservations - 4 or 5 tables were reserved that night. If you're planning on dining here before Varekai (or even if you're not planning on attending the show, but wish to dine between 6:00-8:00 when the show's in town), then I believe reservations are a must.
A complementary basket of bread (I think it was artisan sourdough, or something similar, pre-sliced) was served to begin with. Balsamic and oil were on the side, along with that wonderful spread. I asked about the spread, and it turns out it consists of homemade mayonnaise blended with garlic, kalamata olive, and a touch of anchovy. (I think it's a variation on Aioli.) As I said before, it was addicting.
We all started out with a salad, tossed in a balsamic vinagrette. The other three had a small-sized dinner salad that came with their entrees, while I ended up with a regular-sized one, which was twice the size of theirs. (Glad I came hungry that night!)
I had the lamb shank, which turned out to be the biggest plate of the four. I didn't expect to have that much food, especially after my monster-sized salad, but it was prepared well even though I had to struggle a bit to get the meat off the bone. Another had the eggplant parmesan, which she said was the most wonderful she's had in a long time. (Both of those came with sides of mixed vegetables - broccoli, carrots, zucchini - and pasta with sauce.) Two others had ravioli with scallops in a cream sauce, which was a special that night. Both of them liked it.
Service was very prompt. We explained our situation (which I'm sure was the case with a couple other tables that night), and the staff (there were three of them that night) accomodated us well. We got done with dinner around 6:50, passed on having dessert but opted for coffees all around (their dessert selection that night was dismal, IMHO, nothing spectacular with the possible exception of the canoli), and were able to leave sometime around 7:15 or so - plenty of time to drive over to the fairgrounds, navigate their parking lot, walk in, and find our seats in the tent. The other couple took care of the bill (we took care of the tickets), but IIRC, dinner for four (plus my gigantic salad), wine, coffee, tax, and tip came to about $130.
Very quaint neighborhood place - we'll be back, but will wait until after Cirque leaves town for our return engagement.
2400 Newport Bl, Costa Mesa (Northbound side of Newport Bl, corner of Santa Isabel)
Oh, and a "thank you" for all your help on this one!