Thirty years of business success is a milestone by any reckoning. But to have that kind of track record in the restaurant business—through recent decades of economic ups and downs—is downright awesome. So congratulations and thanks to Paul and Cindy Geise, who have put three decades of heart, labor and talent into their enduring Westside landmark, Ristorante Avanti (whose name means onward in Italian).
“We opened on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving,” Paul recalls. “We bought Papa Joe’s Deli on Mission Street and spent a month remodeling it.” When they started up, the young couple was focused on experimenting with Italian food and wine. “But now the part that’s changed,” he admits, “is that I realize we have become a real community place. So many of our patrons recall having special events dinners here, anniversary dinners, graduation, birthdays, and these meals all have an emotional content. I feel we’ve been part of people’s lives,” he says. “Everybody knows everybody—it’s really sweet.”
He’s right. Every time I meet my friend Rita for lunch at Avanti, we’re bound to see the same friends, coworkers and neighbors firmly ensconced and devoted to their favorite Avanti dish. And to the neighborhood ambience. Kudos, Cindy and Paul, and my personal thanks for all of those deeply comforting dinners of chicken cacciatore, the unctuous pappardelle with meatballs, consistently delicious duck confit, and any number of killer Meyer lemon tarts! Autumn specials with fresh porcini, all of those local organic farm ingredients. Thirty years—an impressive milestone. Salut!
Vintage With Legs
A complex beauty at almost 10 years old, the 2008 Le Cigare Volant is an homage to its inspiration, the mighty Châteauneuf-du-Pape—containing 45 percent Grenache, 30 percent Syrah, 13 percent Mourvedre, 7 percent Cinsault, and 5 percent Carignane, combined into 14.2 percent alcohol. Our tasting team detected distinct layers of sensory engagement, expanding into a gracefully robust middle. Licorice and roses at first, with a center of cassis and strawberry, ending in minerals and a suspicion of asphaltum. This lovely Bonny Doon Vineyard flagship partnered filet mignon and asparagus as if born to do it. A lovely experience, with compliments and fond regards to winemaker Randall Grahm and company.
A word from Santos Majano
It’s not exactly moving along at the Octagon. The chef, formerly of Artisan and Soif, currently at the Kitchen at Discretion, called me to explain that “he knows nothing for sure” as far as opening a restaurant inside the Octagon at Abbott Square. “So many little negotiations have to happen,” he said, laughing the whole time. “It might happen, but frankly we just don’t know.” One of the issues, among others, is that the former Santa Cruz County Hall of Records (most recently a popular branch of Lulu Carpenter’s) has “never had a kitchen inside.” Yet the master plan has called for not one, but two dining establishments to fill the tiny Octagon space as one of the Abbott Square entities. “Now it’s beginning to seem crazy,” Majano said. “It might happen. It might not.” So that’s the story as of this minute.
To boldly go where too many women have gone before, I am continuing my research into the New Cocktail, the ubiquitous multi-ingredient libation in a pretty glass popping up everywhere a full bar is available. Should these newly created cocktails be simply a matter of deliciously balanced ingredients? Should they involve a smattering of liquor-enhancing herbs, or fruits, or artisanal bitters? Should liquor be detectable in the overall flavor? Where exactly does the old school martini, or Manhattan, or Daiquiri belong in today’s wildly expanding bar scene? Stay tuned. The Trek goes on.