Who doesn’t love a nice leisurely Italian dinner on a Friday night after a long week of work? But what about the rest of the week, or when you don’t have the time (or the money) for that kind of experience?
The owners of the new Little Owl in Aptos want to provide fine homemade Italian food for those looking for a quick, inexpensive meal any day of the week. We spoke with Matt Walthard, the director of operations, who told us all about this different approach.
You order food from the counter here. That’s not typical for Italian restaurants.
MATT WALTHARD: It’s a casual dining concept. Essentially what we’re shooting for is the really casual eatery, the kind of place you can go to on a Wednesday or a Tuesday and not break the bank, and have excellent food with top-notch ingredients. Everybody is trying to save money and pay their mortgages. Doing the full-service operation really takes the price point up. We want to be able to deliver the same quality food, but also keep it at a palatable price point. Everything about it should really make it very streamlined. On a Wednesday night, you don’t want to have a two-hour meal. You want to eat and go.
What’s your pizza style?
It’s very Neapolitan. It’s done on a wood-fired pizza oven. It runs at about 750 degrees on average. We spend about an hour and a half pre-heating the oven. The dough we make in-house. We use the “00” flour—extra virgin olive oil, salt, yeast, water. That’s it. Then we allow it to slowly ferment for another four-to-seven days. That’s really where it’s at its peak performance. They’re not made to be like Round Table, where you have mounds of toppings. We try to keep it to three-to-four excellent ingredients that we feel pair really well together, then just bake them off to perfection. They should have a little pillow-y-ness inside, a nice crust on the outside, a crunch as you bite into it. I really think our pizzas are phenomenal.
You have a build-your-own-pasta option?
Really, the genesis there is I’ve had people come in and say, “you know what, we always go out to eat Italian, and we always order the pasta, but can we do this noodle instead of that noodle?” Pasta is a very personal thing. One of the fun things about pasta is when you eat it at home, you can take whatever you got in the fridge and make a nice pasta—as long as you have some olive oil and garlic, maybe a little butter, you can really whip up a decent dish. It allows people to feel comfortable in making their own decision, making sure they get the dish they want. I’d have to do the math, but there’s certainly thousands of different ways you can go. littleowlitaliankitchen.com