The location: Al Forno restaurant.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. An upscale restaurant.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Somewhere in Newport Beach.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. We first saw the Al Forno restaurant in Episode 9 (of Season 2), "The Ex-Factor". Julie has an idea for a magazine called "Newport Living", but she is competing with Sandy (who wants the Newport Group to fund a low-income housing development instead). Sandy, Kirsten, Caleb & Julie meet at the restaurant to discuss the plan, and Sandy is shocked when Kirsten tells Caleb that Julie's magazine idea actually has merit.

    We see the Al Forno restaurant again in Episode 23 (of season 2), "The O-Sea", in which Seth had dinner at the restaurant with Star Wars creator George Lucas, to discuss making his comic book, Atomic County, into a movie.

    But in order to attend the meeting, Seth had to skip going to the prom with Summer (and allow his rival, Zach, to take her to the dance instead). Seth tried, but he couldn't go through with it, and half-way through the meal (and after Lucas tells Seth how much he regrets having missed his own prom), Seth excused himself and left, switching places with Zach, to meet Summer at the dance.

    We saw Al Forno for the last time in
    Episode 6 (of Season 3), "The Swells", in a scene where Julie and Charlotte planned the charity dinner. Julie didn't know that Charlotte was planning to stage a fake charity party so she could scam the money and then skip town.

    But when Charlotte left the table to answer her cell phone, Julie (who was broke at the time) went to take Charlotte's credit card from her purse to pay the restaurant check. Julie discovered that Charlotte had multiple ID's with different names, and realized that she was a con artist.

    Outside the restaurant, Julie confronts her with the truth. Charlotte tries to recruit Julie into the scheme.

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. The front door of a studio building.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. You can't The restaurant doesn't really exist. Like Charlotte's schemes, this is one of the producer's total scams.

    What you're really looking at is the front door of a studio building at Raleigh's Manhattan Beach Studios, 1600 Rosecrans Ave, in Manhattan Beach, CA, the same studio where they film the O.C. interiors.

    They shot this scene in the same spot where they shot the meeting between Kaitlin and Frank in the show's final episode: in front of the main building at the far north end of the studio - on the south side of that building, to be exact, just north of Stage 28. That's close to the corner of Rosecrans Ave and N. Redondo Ave.

    They just slapped on a sign near the door which reads "Al Forno", added a few potted palms, some flowers, and a lot of sparkle-lights and _voila!_ , the Al Forno restaurant was born.

    My guess is that someone at the studio got tired of paying big fees to photograph real restaurants (like the Yacht Club and the Lighthouse) and said "To hell with it, let's just slap a sign on the front of our building... think of the savings!"

    (And the terrible thing is... it worked! It had me fooled for quite a while.)

    They also used the same location for Taylor's fake TV station. (Take a look at the photos on that TV station page and compare them to the photos of Al Forno on this page. Pay particular attention to what's above the door...)

    Here is a Bird's Eye view aerial photo showing the exact

    And here is a map link.

    (Update: A fan emailed me to say that there actually is an Al Forno restaurant.  It doesn't look anything like the restaurant on the show (see this photo), and it's not in Southern California like the one on the show, but is considered one of the best restaurants in Providence, Rhode Island, which just happens to be the town where O.C. creator Josh Schwartz was born & raised. So, it's probably no coincidence that Josh chose the same name for his fictional restaurant in The O.C.)

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. This one had me baffled for quite some time, because I was looking for an actual restaurant. After Googling "Al Forno" and realizing that they had made up the restaurant's name, I still assumed that they had used an actual restaurant building, but had simply changed its moniker. But none of the restaurants I looked at resembled Al Forno. Eventually, I had basically given up finding it.

    But fortunately, the producers tend to repeat themselves. And after finding this exact location for Taylor's fake TV station (as well as two parking lot scenes that were also shot here), I recognized the unusual awning over the door, which is tilted upward at a slant and contains several light panels. I then compared other details in the Al Forno scenes with the studio building and, naturally, got a perfect match.

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