Food, Wine, and Travel
In downtown Santa Barbara, tucked away in a quiet little corner of Victoria Street half way between State Street and Chapala, sits Olio e Limone and their pizzeria. The decor is classically Italian; not that it is covered in colorful pottery, with loud music and terra cotta with lemons and garlic hanging everywhere, like some commercial Italian-American chain restaurants, but in the simple understated way that great Italians chefs treat their food with just enough cozy warmth that it is inviting and comfortable. The restaurant has white table cloths and on a busy Friday night, the waiters and buss persons bustle about squeezing in between tables just like they would at my favorite little spot in Firenze. The pizzeria is more casual but with an inviting bar and roaring pizza oven, it’s more fun to sit at the bar than at one of the tables….who doesn’t want to watch rustic, hand-rolled dough be dressed in rich home-made tomato sauce and then sprinkled with freshly, rough-torn basil by while listening to the lyrical mix of Spanglish and Italian from the kitchen?!?!
Head Chef Alberto Morello and his wife, Elaine, own this gem and they are gems themselves. Both are very open and unpretentious; it just makes you fall in love with the place, let alone the food. Since I moved to Santa Barbara three months ago, I’ve stolen away from my crazy work schedule four times to enjoy their food. Every time I go, I order the Umbra Pizza. It has an incredibly thin and crispy crust and is covered with mushrooms and shaved black truffles. I’m not talking some essence or oil….there are quarter-sized slices of these precious little delicacies and then, it’s generously drizzled with olive oil which emulsifies all of the flavors. For dinner, I happily indulge in the wild mushroom lasagna with spinach pasta (hot the first time and cold for leftovers). Not only is it overflowing with mushrooms of all varieties, but it is B-E-A-U-tiful! The vibrantly, green homemade pasta with the dark mushrooms and luscious ivory béchamel are a stunning mix. Finally I highly suggest you top it all off with their homemade panna cotta. Far richer and denser than the average, it is topped with a balsamic reduction. It’s genuine, and if you get the chance you need to go! And when you do go, ask for Matteo to suggested a dessert wine pairing. The tall, dark and handsome Sicilian will not disappoint!
Contributed to the Santa Barbara View by Danielle Gerbracht of LaVitaFresca.com