Film Feast review by Santa Barbara View Restaurant Correspondent
Let’s face it, Santa Barbara has lots of restaurants. There are literally hundreds to choose from. And if you are anything like me, you have a favorite dish at a restaurant and you just order the same thing. For example, if you are at Brophy’s you get the clam chowder, if you find yourself at Carlitos, you get the fajitas, if you are at Harry’s you always get the Blue Moon Martini (Grey Goose vodka with blue cheese olives). And if you happen to find yourself at Ca’Dario, there is one favorite that is nearly impossible to pass up, the Ravioli al Burra e Salvia (Brown Butter Sage Ravioli). Personally, I have ordered this menu item as an appetizer, an entree and a dessert! But oh Ca’Dario, how you surprised me. On Friday night, my favorite dish was actually out shined by a heavenly special on the “Film Feast” menu!
Say what you will about the SB International Film Festival, an unexpected benefit of the festival that you may love or hate, has started a new tradition in culinary bliss. The Film Feast. According to the organizers: “Santa Barbara’s cast of culinary characters presents Film Feast three-course tasting menus offered Jan. 26 – Feb. 5, 2012.” And 50 of Santa Barbara’s restaurants, bars and hotels are participating.
As a local, I already know that Ca’Dario has good food. But I have to say, the Ca’Dario Film Feast Menu is worth every penny. If you have never been to Ca’Dario or have not been in a while, you owe it to yourself to take a ‘staycation’ to Italy on Victoria Street. The quaint European atmosphere is genuine with traditional décor; white tablecloths, hardwood floors, smell of roasting garlic and the sweet sound of clicking glasses and plates and a steady hum of friends and lovers in lively conversation. The staff is friendly and very loyal, our server has been with the restaurant for 15 years. And you won’t find an ounce of pretense.
The Ca’Dario Film Feast menu includes an insalate, a pasta dish, a glass of red or white local wine, and coffee with almond biscotti all for $35. While I wouldn’t mind going back and trying all the dishes on this special menu, my choice included the burrata caprese salad (Burrata Tartufata), but this was no ordinary caprese. Made with creamy burrata mozzarella cheese that tasted oh so buttery, and the freshest organic tomatoes of the season, it was topped with avocado and truffle pesto. To say this was a creamy delight is an understatement. My dinner companion enjoyed the Carpaccio con Rughetta e Capperi, in other words, melts-in-your-mouth sliced raw beef with arugula, capers and shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Once again, the ingredients were fresh, the presentation lovely and the taste, so satisfying. There are a total of 5 different insalate choices on the tasting menu, so if neither of the divine dishes we enjoyed appeal to you; there is probably something else that would.
On to the Pasta. There are also 5 different specials on the menu. Our server said these were items that are not available on the regular menu and were mainly ideas that were brought back from the owner’s trips to Northern Italy. He, naturally, is from Lake Como, Italy. My strong advice would be to do yourself a favor and order the Fregola con Vongole e Salciccia. This is fregola pasta with clams and spicy Italian sausage in a white wine sauce. It is seriously one of the best meals you can get in Santa Barbara. At first bite you will be surprised by the layers of flavors in such a simple dish. The texture of the small fegoal pasta was a perfect complement to the light sauce, while the spicy sausage melded perfectly with the mild seafood flavor of the clams. It was, in three words, refined comfort food. I would definitely order this dish again and highly recommend it. My dinner companion selected the Panzerotti al Sugo di Noci, which was pasta filled with spinach and ricotta with a walnut pesto sauce. The idea of walnut pesto was intriguing, and while it tasted delicious; it did lack some visual appeal. This is a small complaint considering how delicious it all was.
This decidedly wonderful meal ended with crisp, crunchy almond biscotti and a great cup of coffee. My dinner in Italy was a success and my compliments to the chef and the staff at Ca’Dario. Get the Film Feast menu now through February 5th.