I have to admit, it took me two tries to find Ella’s, despite the obvious location in its name: Ella’s at the Airport. I was expecting a stand-alone building, but it’s actually right there in the terminal, in the same space as former restaurants Props, Zuniga’s and the Belly Landing. (No, you don’t have to go through metal detectors to dine.) After a soft launch, it celebrated its grand opening last week.
Ella King, 42, who has run the successful Café Ella in Watsonville for seven years, has taken a big risk with a fine-dining establishment in a place with no pedestrian or drive-by traffic. But the food and the view are making it a choice destination. It’s been packed for lunches, dinners and Sunday brunches. And Saturday, there was some major fly-by traffic, as a group of 20 African-American pilots from a club called Red Tails flew in from all over the state for lunch.
Highlights include wood-fired pizza, panini sandwiches, comfort food and sustainable, high quality dinners. Prices range from $13 for a burger or pasta for lunch to $26 for a steak at dinner, with plenty of veggie options.
What’s your philosophy for the new place?
Ella: There are no steam tables here. When we say it is made from scratch, it is fully from scratch. Even the french fries! Our food is local. We want to be the ambassadors of the Pajaro Valley. We feel this is really the heartbeat. You have Carmel stretching over there and Santa Cruz over here, but Pajaro is the center, the belly. Our meats come from Freedom Meat Locker, the local meat butcher; our seafood is sustainable; our vegetables are grown right here. There are very few places in South County making authentic food.
What should my first meal here be?
Ella: We have a nice variety of foods, thoughtfully executed. We have organic salads, soups made from scratch. We use onions, garlic, fresh vegetables, nothing pre-made. We even squeeze the lemon into our vinaigrette. I think our thin-crust pizzas are exceptional.
What can you do to get people to try a new location?
Ella: Mostly right now it’s word of mouth. A lot of people know our other café and have come because of that and told their friends. We will start advertising also.
100 Aviation Way, Watsonville. 728-3282 ellaswatsonville.com. PHOTO: Tiffany Ella King sources all of her ingredients locally for her new fine-dining restaurant, Ella’s at the Airport. BRAD KAVA