Dining Reviews

Returning to Downtown’s Most Charming Dining Room: Gabriella Cafe

Gabriella Cafe makes lunches that are gorgeous and abundant

Diners enjoy a meal indoors at Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Finally, a chance to sit indoors in downtown’s most charming dining room—Gabriella Cafe—and enjoy a colossal lunch.

Listening to the divine songstress Astrid Gilberto’s lilting voice and sipping a rare mid-day Prosecco with a splash of creme de cassis (Kir Royale, $9.75), we enjoyed a table by one of the windows and view of the lively sidewalk seating outside. It felt like forever since we’d said hello to owner Paul Cocking, a man who knows how to make everyone feel pampered. As did the skillful watercolors by David Pfost adorning the cafe walls.

The menu was also reassuringly familiar. Salads, pastas, a petrale sole special, succulent gnocchi. I had my eye on the house tagliatelle bolognese ($28), while my lunch partner went for a glass of mint ice tea ($3) and fish tacos with chef Gema Cruz’s amazing salsa ($15). 

And we were not disappointed. Our lunches were gorgeous and abundant. On large, heavy plates my steaming hot pasta came topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a dice of fresh parsley. Just as it would in Italy. The sauce contained plenty of beef, carrots, celery, onions, and gorgeously blended flavors that bathed every strand of fresh pasta. I’d been waiting for this plate of pasta for a long time. 

My companion had stopped talking the minute he started on the first of his tacos. Topped with a filigree of shredded cabbage and slices of avocado, the tacos were both rich and light, and provided a reason for using liberal applications of the excellent salsa provided on the side. A salad of baby greens and ribbons of carrots sat on the side, bathed in a sprightly balsamic vinaigrette. We enjoyed the house fresh focaccia during our meal, and consequently had no room for the seasonal strawberry hazelnut bread pudding dreamed up by pastry chef Krista Pollack. Next time. 

Gabriella Cafe, 910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Lunch Tuesday-Friday, 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9pm; weekend brunch, 10am-3pm. gabriellacafe.com.

Olive Oil Synergy

Aptos’ attractive Persephone is offering something a little different in the way of prix fixe tastings. This one pairs housemade special dishes with Wild Poppies Olive Oils. The local company’s owner/producers Kim Null and Jamie de Sieyes will be on hand Sunday, May 9, from 3-4:30pm to talk about the various olive oils and their distinctive properties, and Persephone’s chef/owner Cori Goudge-Ayer has created three dishes to compliment the oils. 

Included in the afternoon event will be chilled asparagus soup with Taggiasca olive oil, crostini with favetta and tonno topped with lemon olive oil, and burrata with pea puree and Orchard Blend olive oil. The local/seasonal tasting event requires advance ticket purchase. Outdoor setting and socially distanced seating. $35 per person. Make reservations at persephonerestaurant.com

Shopper’s Corner Designer T-shirts

Local entrepreneur and UCSC graduate Claire McKinney has done a spectacular job designing two new T-shirts that show off the iconic logo of Shopper’s vintage 1930s gourmet grocery. McKinney’s designs incorporate the vintage neon sign that greets patrons at the front of the store. The shirts are exactly what every collector of only-in-Santa Cruz imagery needs. Instagram-ready with eye-popping colors on dark backgrounds. Next time you’re cruising the store for your favorite bottle of wine or a box of flake sea salt, ask about the new T-shirts. You need one.

Wine Dinner Series

Plan ahead for the upcoming Summer/Fall Taste of Terroir Wine Dinner Series in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Starting on June 27, four dinners will feature a top chef cooking to pair with a selection of growing regions and their representative wineries. Tickets are $125-$160 per seat. Learn more at scmwa.com/tasteofterroir.

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