Sonny & Vito Live It Up in Laguna Beach


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Call it a canine way to interpret the New Year: this is the Year of the Dog on the Chinese calendar, and a sign from the stars that the wily Rosato Brothers—Sonny and Vito, Maltese litter mates—were ready to be taken on a trip to a genuinely dog-friendly destination. They were looking forward to walking and snacking in short order, and, of course, leaving the driving and planning to us. All signs pointed to Laguna Beach, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, which remains legendary for its seven-mile-long stretch of surf and sand, and is also a year-round retreat for art lovers, thanks in no small part to the annual Pageant of the Masters. This iconic destination has another big draw in that it is ideal for traveling with your pet.

Built in the 1920s, the historic 23- room Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa on South Coast Highway is one of the Top 10 hotels in the United States in the Romance category according to Trip Adviser’s Travelers Choice Awards. When you check in with your pet, the hotel will ask you to sign a Pet Waiver Form, which clearly describes the responsibilities of pet owners, such as “I acknowledge that at no time shall my pet be left alone in the room.” There is a $100 fee per pet for their entire stay, along with seven additional requirements, each of which must be initialed by the pet owner.

On our trip, after a tour of the sun-splashed designer-inspired inn, Sonny and Vito moved on to The Cliff Restaurant, positioned in the heart of Laguna Beach. This restaurant offers a breathtaking, 180-degree panoramic view of surf, sun and sky and features a patio specially reserved for customers with pets. It’s the perfect Pacific view perch from which to peruse the Dog Menu, which is exactly what ever-inquisitive Sonny and Vito set about doing. Another perk: the convenient valet parking ($3) gave the “the boys” something to bark about.

While the beach dog duo positioned themselves for lunch, we discovered a fascinating shop just steps away— Russian Traditions. The store specializes in Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls, a set of hand-painted wooden dolls of decreasing sizes that all fit inside of each other, one by one. But in addition to their expansive matryoshka collection, lacquer boxes, Russian Orthodox icons and other items, their canine-themed collection includes every breed of dog you can imagine, from pointers to poodles!

With Sonny and Vito leashed and ready to go, we visited just a few of Laguna’s 30 picturesque coves and beaches. We took the boys on a 45-minute walk from the Inn at Laguna Beach to Las Brisas (the former Victor Hugo’s restaurant), near the Laguna Art Museum (307 Cliff Drive). This is an ideal place to start your dog walks, as it leads to views of impressive public art installations, such as a sculpture of a breaching whale and a small but poignant memorial to the World Trade Center. The paved walking path is like a fashion show for local and visiting pups—we spotted several well-groomed poodles and Maltese (and combinations thereof) in their Sunday-best outfits, leashes, and collars. During this scenic stroll, with the expansive ocean views that are so often captured by artists here, we heard about the Naked Dog Bistro (424 Forest Ave) near the Pageant of the Masters Festival of the Arts theatre. At Naked Dog, the mother-and-daughter team of Charlotte Bloom and Lindsay Poe are known for their fresh-baked, gluten-free, dog-friendly cupcakes in flavors such as pumpkin and bacon.

Don’t leave Laguna Beach without viewing the distinctively “whimsical dogs and quizzical cats” at the Faux Paw Artique. Artist Debby Carman’s original designs, treasured by dog breed clubs throughout the U.S., can be found on bowls, greeting cards, pillows, decorative wall décor and stunning pet ceramics. These fascinating pet-inspired collectables are made in the USA at Debby’s Laguna Beach studio. View the collection at Faux Paw Artique, 611 S. Coast Hwy., open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. Michelle Williams, the Artique’s director will guide you through the impressive collection, featuring products that are food-safe, dish-washer-proof and lead free.

When it’s time for some serious exercise, visit The Laguna Beach Dog Park, open every day except Wednesdays from 6 am to dusk. It’s located east of downtown at 20672 Laguna Canyon Road, and there is street parking in front of the park, which is operated by the Friends of the Laguna Beach Dog Park. During your Laguna Beach visit, take time out to experience Moulin, a French bistro with instore displays of divine desserts, from fresh fruit tarts to chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis to fresh-baked breads in all shapes and sizes. The owner reminded me that “pets are welcome,” and we noticed several comfortably seated on the patio, fashionably dressed.

Many boutiques, art galleries and restaurants along Forest Avenue welcome canine visitors with bowls of water at their entrances. Sonny and Vito were kept in good spirits as we brought a box of fresh biscuits and carrot-based cookies and donuts from the Naked Dog Bistro to keep their tails wagging.

Memories of this trip kept them content on the ride home.

No bones about it: This trip was something the brothers will bark about for a long time to come!

Laguna Beach Resources

Laguna Beach’s 30 coves and beaches are open year-round from 5 am to 1 am; Aliso Beach is open from 6am to 10 pm. Dogs are allowed on city beaches before 9 am and after 6 pm between June 15 and September 10 ,and during regular beach hours from September 11 to June 14. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times.

Casa Laguna Hotel

The Inn at Laguna Beach

Faux Paw Productions

Naked Dog Bistro


The Cliff Restaurant

Russian Traditions

Las Brisas

Laguna Beach Dog Park

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