Chef Giancarlo Cucumo grew up amid the "lean cuisine" of Bari, Italy, where he learned to cook fresh seafood, chop veggies, and drizzle olive oil at a young age. When Giancarlo arrived in Morro Bay after a long, globe-trotting culinary career, it was like returning to the climate of his homeland, right down to the ample fishing and fresh produce. It proved the perfect locale for Giancarlo's Ristorante Italiano Mediterraneo.
That Mediterranean background can be tasted throughout Giancarlo's menu: ravioli stuffed with sea bass and smothered in a brandy-tomato cream sauce; racks of lamb encrusted with herb-honey and roasted over an oak-wood fire, pizzas crispy from a stint inside a wood-burning oven. The dessert lineup, meanwhile, is dominated by cheesecakes, pastries, and gelato. The restaurant's open-kitchen layout also adds a touch of culinary theatre to the meal.
At Westside Pizza of Lompoc, chefs adhere to a strict ethos of freshness, making dough each day by hand to create delectable pizza masterpieces for pickup or delivery. They crown each pie with real mozzarella cheese, canadian bacon, pepperoni, sundried tomatoes, and plenty of other toppings—none of which are ever frozen. They've got pasta on the menu, too, designed especially for those who are allergic to circular shapes.
Enormous portions of pasta weigh down tables inside Petrini's Italian Restaurants, which specialize filling stomachs with old-school Italian fare. Inside the kitchen, chefs cover thin crusts with slices of salami, mushrooms, and barbecue chicken to make custom pies. Swirls of steam float above plates of gnocchi, tortellini, and ravioli, and generous helpings of chicken and veal parmesan slip between slices of sandwich bread or go solo as dinner entrees. Petrini’s homemade salad dressings top crisp salads, and can be purchased by the bottle, gallon, or super-soaker tank.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
A link to Santa Barbara's past, Aldo's Italian Ristorante resides on the grounds of the Janssens-Orella adobe house, which was built in 1857 and holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1986, Aldo's has done its part to write its own chapter into the historic site's story, serving homemade Italian specialties for lunch and dinner every day of the week. During visits, diners may enjoy freshly prepared dishes inside amid ornate pillars and elegant artwork, or outside in the heated courtyard.