The menu at Main Street Garden is crafted anew each week from ingredients culled from local farm suppliers. Chef Brad Briske and his staff use only pasture-raised meats, sustainable fish, and organic produce, all complemented by a wine list spotlighting local vineyards and a sarsaparilla list spotlighting local bathtubs.
The only Argentine-inspired restaurant in Santa Cruz, Star Bene serves “super comfort food,” as described by Christina Walters of Metro Active. Inside the low-lit dining room, which is reminiscent of a beach cottage, servers uncork bottles of Italian and Californian wines to complement swirls of homemade pasta, slow-cooked meats, and diners’ ever-rosier cheeks. Star Bene’s chefs use local, free-range meats and organic produce whenever available to create seafood, pastas, and meats complemented by beautifully simple sauces and fresh, stand-alone ingredients.
Ristorante Barolo’s sconces and chandelier lighting illuminate Italian cuisine. The Bayview Hotel, originally constructed in the 1870s, elegantly ensconces this romantic restaurant, while other hotels offer romantic dining by placing candles on a vending machine and having a tux-clad waiter press the buttons and jiggle it when necessary. Various paintings adorn the walls surrounding Ristorante Barolo’s white tablecloths, on which housemade pastas and traditional Italian cuisine render the Victorian-styled architecture as redolent as it is resplendent. The dinner menu—refashioned after the restaurant received a facelift courtesy of reality television show Restaurant: Impossible —catalogs linguini with shrimp, calamari, clams, and mussels in a white-wine sauce, as well as chicken breasts stuffed with cheese, pesto, and prosciutto. Each night brings with it live entertainment—from a jazz group on Saturday evenings to classical guitar on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Santa Cruz Pizza Company's devoted discus artistes rise each morning to stir their secret-recipe sauce, craft their made-from-scratch dough, and then unite them to build an assorted menu of sumptuous pies. Regale ravenous tongue buds with the salami, pepperoni, sausage, and canadian bacon symphony that tops the meat combo pizza ($17.97 for an 11" pie), or aim lower on the food chain with the mushroom, artichoke, pesto sauce, and garlic ensemble that headlines the Garden Pesto Delight ($14.75 for an 11” pie). All large pies can be ordered in take-and-bake form ($3 off the menu price), granting oven enthusiasts and those plagued by spontaneous cheese cravings a greater amount of pizza autonomy. Chicago deep-dish and gluten-free options sate cravings for alternative crusts, and items such as the philly cheesesteak ($7.50) and the tuna sandwich ($6.50) raise the oft-overlooked banner for noncircular comestibles.
Italy may be a long way from Oak Tree Ristorante in Felton, but Sebastian Nobile refuses to take shortcuts. Inspired by his Italian grandfather’s recipes, the chef crafts all of his dishes from scratch. His attention to detail is apparent in the fluffy nuggets of gnocchi that he drizzles with homemade pesto and the organic vegetables that he sources from local suppliers whenever possible. Chef Nobile’s local focus tends to make the menu more interesting, as it compels him to work with seasonal ingredients.
The restaurant’s dining room betrays the same unstrained elegance as its food. A peaked roof is lined in blonde wood to promote an open, airy feel, and windows climb to the ceiling to allow for views of the gladiators swinging from the branches of the garden's giant oak.
Redwood Pizzeria bakes up a savory menu of circle-centric eats, all crafted with organic pizza toppings, sauce, and dough. Edible architects can draft their own slices with a wealth of formidable pizza materials, including meaty toppings and locally sourced produce, and those drawing an artistic blank can opt for Redwood's savory specialty pies, such as the Greek, which dons a delectable dusting of feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts ($11.99/small). For less Euclidean cravings, Redwood boasts an eclectic assortment of hot baked dishes, including nachos ($7+), calzones ($9+), and organic vegetarian lasagna, which lets tired tongues make tasty base camp on layers of noodles, spinach, red onions, and zucchini before their ascent to its cheesy summit ($12). A selection of beers and local wines is also on hand to equip throats for lengthy conversations on the philosophical conundrums of beet canning.
Though Straw Hat's menu is predominantly circular cuisine, diners can stave off the pizzapocalypse with a curtain-raiser of a dozen Mojave hot wings ($7.99) and equally savory views of 12 all-you-can-watch plasma TVs. Next, flip a dollar bill to decide whether to have Straw Hat's original California crust or a thicker, pan-ier DaPan pizza foundation and then build your own piescraper from the medium 12-inch ground up with any of 24 toppings and four sauces (one-topping or cheese, $12.99; each additional topping, $1.25). Experimental eaters can create a heretofore unheard of combo such as a barbecue bacon and pineapple pizza. For more ready-made and time-tested flavors, grab one of Straw Hat’s specialty Master Pizzas, such as the king-size 18-inch favorite, The Works (salami, ham, sausage, pepperoni, linguica, ground beef, mushrooms, olives, and bell peppers, $26.99).