At some point, casual-upscale became the norm for new restaurants in Santa Cruz. But Persephone, which opened where Aptos Pizza used to be, is kind of an ode to the old-school, fine-dining style of restaurant that used to be more common. The food is Mediterranean, with lots of local flavors and an emphasis on the dining experience. We spoke with Alex Potter, the co-owner who runs the front of the house and oversees the vast wine selection. His sister, Cori Goudge-Ayer, is also the head chef—local foodies may be familiar with her work at Laili and Süda.
How is it being part of a family business?
It’s good. We’re a close family. We have lots of mutual respect. My sister is almost 10 years older than me. We are doing her passion project. My background has been guest service and bartending and serving for years. It made sense for me to do the front of the house. I’m kind of like the wine guy. My sister is such an amazing chef.
How do you define ‘Mediterranean’ cuisine?
It’s more about techniques. Rather than French techniques of butters and creams, it’s oil-based cooking, a little bit lighter. Pastas, seafood. In terms of ingredients, it’s really local. We’re sourcing almost everything. We’ve got local farmers, all small organic guys. We’ve got fishermen bringing us fish fresh from the harbor. Even the meat is mostly within 100 miles or so. Santa Cruz County has a similar climate to the Mediterranean climate. So a lot of or ingredients are similar.
How much will your menu change with the seasons?
Some of our most popular [dishes] will stay on the menu pretty much forever. A lot of it will change every couple of months, depending on what’s fresh and local. Right now, one dish I know will probably always be there is the truffle cheese tortiglioni. It’s like a really decadent truffle mac and cheese with Monterey Jack cheese. That’s a crowd favorite. The budino is an appetizer that will always be there. It’s a savory parmesan custard. We serve it with different seasonal squash. Certain things will change. Parts of the dishes might change depending on the local ingredients.
7945 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 612-6511.