Inspired by the "North of Little Italy" neighborhood of Manhattan?which is lined with quaint and authentic family-owned restaurants?Nolita Ristorante serves up classic Italian cuisine alongside an extensive craft beer selection at a contemporary bar, featuring 24 taps and a myriad of specialty cocktails. The impressive menu lists off a plethora of dishes, each composed with a nod toward sustainability, such as fresh produce and meats that are locally sourced whenever possible. Tender shrimp ravioli are tossed in a saffron cream sauce, while a bone-in pork chop is plated alongside a crispy polenta cake and sweet grilled peaches.
When creating a pie, cooks at Paesano's Pizzeria adhere to the tradition of NYC's pizza chefs from start to finish. They begin with fresh ingredients, kneading pizza dough from scratch. Next, they hand-toss the pies into circles ready for toppings. After slathering on freshly made sauce and toppings such as italian sausage or fresh mushrooms, they stone-bake the pizzas. You can buy it by the slice or by the pie, or opt for another Italian staple such as a hot sub or lasagna.
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.
Located near Santa Barbara City College, Hot Spots Espresso Company serves as a caffeine-equipped study spot for many a college student. Offering free wifi, the shop makes a variety of coffee and smoothie drinks to order?baristas carefully steam cappuccinos and brew coffee one cup at a time to maximize flavor. On the beach-adjacent patio, palms and blooming bougainvilleas sway in the sea breeze as strings of lights frame columns and archways. Between late April and October, the shop remains open around the clock, acting as a lighthouse for bleary-eyed sailors and a haven for late-night studying.
Given its proximity to East Beach and Stearns Wharf, it’s no surprise that Santa Barbara FisHouse often serves up local, seasonal seafood. When its available, diners can order locally acquired crustaceans such as spiny lobster or Dungeness crab, or sample the imported flavor of certified Maine lobster. The regular menu touts fish transformed by inventive ingredients—macadamia nuts and creamy pineapple sauce envelop baked halibut, and sesame seeds and crispy wontons encrust a cut of Hawaiian mahi mahi. Patrons can choose to take their meals in the dining room or grab a table on the outdoor patio, which is warmed by an open fire pit and the hungry exhalations of jealous passersby.
It's a tradition at Arnoldi's Cafe to make things by hand, whether you're crafting meatballs or the building itself. Though the original venue was founded in 1937 by Giuseppe Arnoldi and his wife Ilda, the current location was erected in 1940. Giuseppe, known as Joe, quarried the stone himself. He made sure to include all the trappings of a rustic Italian getaway: a maple floor for dancing, a pair of bocce courts, and a mural of Lago di Como, where he was born. And, though he and Ilda ceased to run the restaurant in 1969, he appointed a bar manager who remains there to this day. His name is Bucky, and he's a tule elk who welcomes visitors from his spot on the wall.
Thankfully, guests can taste Joe's legacy as well as see it. The menu at Arnoldi's boasts homestyle Italian fare, from bruschetta drizzled in imported olive oil to veal sautéed in wine and a lemon caper sauce. Like the vases at an unscrupulous antique store, many of the pasta dishes here are made fresh from scratch. There's handmade gnocchi, homemade lasagna, and handmade ravioli. Diners enjoy their meals with wine in a romantic dining room or on a heated patio, while in the garden, teams compete in seasonal bocce tournaments.