Pioneering Italians were not only the first to put tomatoes in cuisine, they were also the first people to take photographs of themselves pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Delight in their inventiveness with today's Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of Italian fare at Ristorante Italiano in Branciforte Plaza on Soquel Avenue.
Occupying the historic site of the old Santa Cruz Hospital, Ristorante Italiano resurrects flat-lined taste buds with classic Italian fare that was hailed as the Best Italian Food in 2009 on the pages of Good Times. Crispy fried calamari ($12.95), a local favorite, glows golden brown in Ristorante Italiano's luminous sunroom, ensnaring a collection of tartar and cocktail sauces in its quest to conquer squid skeptics. A warm wall fresco featuring a sated pack of pleased patrons adorns the walls where customers can replicate their poses while slurping spaghetti carbonara, a palate-pleaser topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms, prosciutto, and bacon after being tossed in a rich cream and cheese sauce ($19.99). Weekend noshers delight in the fisherman's cioppino, a thick stew of fresh crab, mussels, clams, shrimp, and scallops swimming in a hearty marinara ($23.99) whose flavors can be augmented with the wide selection of Italian and Californian wines slyly winking from behind the bar ($5.75–$9.50 per glass).
Good Times named Ristorante Italiano the 2009 Italian Food winner for Best of Food & Drink. TripAdvisors give the business an average of four owl eyes, and more than Yelpers give it an average of three stars.
- eggplant parmagiana oozing with cheese, pizzas, crunchy Caesar salads piled with parmesan, minestrone with spicy sausage and countless house-made desserts keep this restaurant at the forefront of our heart when we’re wishing we’re in Italy. – Good Times
- Romantic, charming, excellent service and friendly staff. We had the pleasure of sitting on the patio and enjoyed every moment of our experience. – mhoyos, TripAdvisor
Ristorante Italiano Santa Cruz
Past a rose-red patio and adobe-colored passageway at the old hospital at Branciforte Plaza, Ristorante Italiano Santa Cruz spreads out hearty Italian cuisine, from homemade lasagna to pork tenderloin. Various scenes—a panorama of Venice, a family dining together, the restaurant owner working in the kitchen—play out on the walls in the mural room. In the sunroom, light filters down through glass panels to illuminate tables draped in reds and whites. And out on the patio, benches and deck chairs compete for an umbrella's shade. A family endeavor since its founding in 1980, Ristorante Italiano has consistently drawn praise—Karen Petersen of Good Times, for example, said the restaurant’s “bright flavors and generous portions ensure its distinction as a local favorite.”
555 Soquel Ave.
Santa Cruz, California 95062Get Directions