Lunch with Louie at the Ca' Dario
Santa Barbara food reviews with Louie the pessimist food critic
Apr 6, 7:24 PM (PT)
It is hard to adopt a pessimistic attitude when you go for lunch at Ca' Dario . It is more a mixture of excitement and taste bud anticipation. Very rarely will you have a disappointing meal at the restaurant that I consider to be one of the top 5 Italian restaurants on the Central Coast. Ca' Dario is located on the corner of Victoria and Anacapa, where Café Buenos Aires used to be many years ago.
The place is unpretentious, pleasant and comfortable. At 12:15 midday the place was gradually filling up. If you are going to have a good meal, it’s important not only that the food and service are satisfactory, but also that you are feeling content with your company. That includes other diners in the restaurant, and of course your dining companion. In this case, and as usual, I was having lunch with Ed who just came back from his skiing trip; a little disheveled I may add. His lips were chapped almost to a raw pulp and smiling was quite an enterprise. A boil of unknown origin was growing rapidly on his neck. He’d lost 6 pounds and although tired and weary he’s doing all right, glad to be back in Paradise. Nothing contagious that I could see, so as always, we shared our meal.
We ordered the house salad, some farfalle (bow ties) with salmon in a light tomato cream sauce, and an order of pappardelle with a meat ragout. The bread, ciabatta of course, was delicious as was the olive oil we dunked it in. As we were waiting for our salad, I did my usual inventory of dining companions seated in our vicinity. Let’s see, what do we have? We had the business lunch table with two executive-type gentleman wearing the predictable and not so effervescent or exciting jackets and ties. They were in the company of two very well dressed and professional looking ladies - quite attractive I may add. The conversation revolved around marketing, sales, profits, yada, yada, yada.
To my left sat the “hazel” family consisting of the mother, the father, one boy, one girl, and the grandparents. Everybody had very, very clear hazel eyes. It was an absolute chromosome puzzle. They were like six cats eating gnocchi and penne. It was quite a spectacle. Our pasta arrived at the same time as our professional neighbors got their order. Everybody was happy.
I love pappardelle. It is a flat pasta, about an inch wide; not very easy to slurp into your mouth. There is always the risk of hitting your eyes if you are not careful. But properly prepared, like this pappardelle was, it is just delightful. The sauce, a meat ragout, was just perfect. So was the farfalle with salmon, peas and a very subdued cream sauce. Nothing wrong with the whole thing, it took a while to get there, but it was worth it. I was in the process of devouring my pappardelle when I noticed the size of the salmon my neighbor, the businessman, had on his plate. I am not exaggerating. It was bigger than a size 12 shoe. Thick and robust, it had a life of its own. It was surrounded by a generous order of spinach and about four red potatoes. It was monumental. There was no way a human being could consume so much food. And for lunch, no less!
Across the way, under a picture of Don Corleone and son, sat a blond version of ‘Annette’ and ‘Frankie’, a young couple clad in rubber sandals and beach attire. They’re not what you’d expect to find in Ca' Dario, but very refreshing at the same time.
As I ordered our check, I discovered to my amazement that my neighbor had indeed cleaned his salmon plate in its totality. It was also at this time that ‘Annette’ got up to go to the restroom. Standing, she revealed a mini skirt no wider than my pappardelle. As she walked away, the entire restaurant lost all mobility and sound. Even the cat family was startled.
The meal was outstanding and the company just great. Today, Tuesday the 6th of April they could have used an extra waiter. Maybe somebody called in sick. It’s all right. We had a wonderful time. Just pay attention, look and marvel at everything around you. With a little imagination it can be a marvelous journey.
Ca' Dario is a must if you like great and consistent Italian food. I recommend you make a reservation one of these evenings; it’s even better at night. Try the vitello tonnato - it’s so yummy.
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