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BY RITA GOLDBERG
Mention Sabatino to just about any ingrained Newporter - or possibly even newbies - and witness that “eyes light up” recognition of the spot for authentic and delicious Italian fare. Add to that, charming atmosphere (think patio dining with checkered tablecloths), great service (regulars have bonded with the staff and even invited them to their vacation homes) and the to-die-for signature sausage dish, the most often requested menu item and available to take home and cook, and you will get the flavor of what is special about this favored Lido dining establishment. 

In an industry known for attrition (diners can be fickle), Sabatino has enjoyed a regularly packed house since opening 30 years ago. And in 30 years, little has changed. Chef Daniel Johns has been the back kitchen guru for three decades and for the same period of time, Esther Cammarata has been the front of the house Private Dining and Catering Manager. Also there, as an integral and long-standing part of the staff team, is Wine Director India LaRae. And of course, frequently on site to greet and chat with long time regulars, is founder and owner Peter Sabatino. The core team is more like a family than a group of coworkers and that family feel is evident in the warmth of this iconic restaurant. 

So it’s not surprising that many regulars have invited family and dear friends to celebrate milestone parties and even wedding receptions at this venue that imbues such a welcoming vibe. For clients who book parties, Esther is at the ready to attend to every detail with impeccable care. 

The patio, which can accommodate 100 diners, is an ideal spot for large parties, according to Esther. Inside the restaurant, a guest count of 50 can be seated comfortably. And for more intimate events, the private wine room seats 30. 

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“When working with large parties, we offer a wide range of menu and service options,” says Esther. “Some of our clients want family style dining, with pass around platters of all the popular favorites including sausage, bruschetta, salad, pizza and pasta dishes. Others request plated service of our house specialties, particularly the veal. We do it all and do it well.” 

Food is done extremely well at Sabatino’s. That is because proprietor Peter Sabatino grew up in the restaurant business in Chicago, where his family of Sicilian roots brought their authentic sausage recipe to their popular eatery. 

“Many years ago, my family in Italy made sausage for the Vatican. They used local goat cheese to flavor and cure the meat. To this day, we import goat cheese from Italy to use in our sausage,” shares Peter, who doesn’t compromise on any of the ingredients. 

Chef Daniel, that kitchen guru mentioned earlier, is also very finicky about sourcing and only allows food of the highest quality into his kitchen. Together owner and lead chef ensure that diners get what they keep coming back for - authentic Italian, fresh tasting, high quality, delicious meals. 

Sabatino’s also boasts a great selection of wines, domestic and international, offered at value based price points. “We don’t mark up our wines the way some restaurants do,” says India, who is responsible for the wine selection. “We like to honor our clientele with great food and wine at palatable pricing.” 

While hosting a party at Sabatino’s is a great way to enjoy a special celebration, for those wanting to entertain at home or another venue, catering options are also on the menu. Esther will show up at your home or selected location and set up warming trays of entrees chosen from a mouth watering selection of choices that include Pollo Sabatino, New York Pizzaiola, Swordfish Limone, Red Bell Pepper Sabatino, Eggplant Parmesan and more. The catering menu is comprehensive and includes that beloved sausage starter and caps off with homemade Italian desserts of Cannoli and Tiramisu. When catering at an offsite locale, Sabatino’s does it all - set up, service, clean up, even arranging party supplies upon request. 

Sabatino’s outstanding catering offerings are also extended to some of Peter’s preferred charities. Giving back to the community is a core value of owner and staff and the team will often be seen serving their specialties at benefit events. 

In fact, India personally cooks about 700 pounds of sausage each year in the name of giving back. Organizations that are supported include Hoag, Juvenile Diabetes and the Soup Kitchen. But a favorite form of giving back, near and dear to Peter’s heart is the “Sabatino’s Annual Salute to Marine Corps Birthday” bash. Peter is very devoted to the Marines, having been a marine himself, and hosts this buffet each year in November to honor and commemorate their service. 

“My father, brothers, and I were in the Marines,” tells Peter. “We feed 300 to 400 Marines, including Officers, Generals and Privates, and the party is entirely free. We have the oldest and youngest Marine in attendance cut the cake together with my sword. It’s my favorite event - a true Sabatino’s tradition.” 

Sabatino’s Sausage Company 
251 Shipyard Way, Newport Beach, CA 92663 
949.723.0621 | sabatinosausagecompany.com