Outdoor tents with cozy, yet socially distanced, seating greeted me as I parked to pick up our dinner from Tramonti last week. My order was ready and waiting, and yes, I told the staffer at the front, I would love some bread, too.
Always a great place for families, Tramonti makes everybody feel welcome. Generous pours of red wine were on their way to one of the outdoor tables as I stashed a tote bag laden with aromatic dishes into the trunk and made for home.
If there is such a thing as a destination salad, the mighty Santa Croce is it ($9 small / $14 large). A Boboli Gardens of salads, this playful creation offers texture, flavor, two cheeses, and a light lemony vinaigrette dressing. My companion took one look of the enormous box containing the Santa Croce, with all the items organized into categories—shredded carrots, sliced celery, toasted hazelnuts, feta, large ribbons of Parmigiano Reggiano, baby arugula and lots of pretty mixed greens—and demanded that I share! We made two plates of our favorite ingredients all mixed together, then added the dressing, and frankly could have made an entire meal of this bewitching salad, plus the slices of fresh Ciabatta bread provided.
But, in fact, we had more wonderful items for dinner. Our absolute favorite was an order of Gamberoni alla Diavola ($15) involving five large prawns seasoned with parmesan, garlic, parsley and wrapped in spicy sopressata salame, all baked in the house brick oven. The prawns arrived on a bed of arugula accompanied by a tangy dijon tzatziki dipping sauce. Wow, these were addictive (and plenty of red wine was called for). Robustly seasoned and containing a definite kick, these prawns were outstanding. And they met their match in my companion’s order of green Castelvetrano olives–lots of them—along with a container of tangy housemade pickled veggies. Pickled carrots, celery, red peppers, and broccoli made a giardiniera course that both sparked and satisfied the appetite.
We barely had room left for our shared order of beef polpette in marinara with roast polenta ($15). I’ll go back soon for another round of that outstanding Santa Croce salad (Italian for Santa Cruz, I love it), and those high intensity prawns. Oh, and there’s pizza at Tramonti, too. Very nice pizza.
Tramonti, 528 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. Monday-Thursday, 4:30-9:30pm; Friday-Sunday, 11:30am-9:30pm. tramontisantacruz.com.
The Bay Area, including Santa Cruz, has gone orange, pandemically speaking. And that means expanded indoor activities. Restaurants—along with places of worship, movie theaters and museums—may now operate at 50% capacity indoors. It’s a start. Retail shops may open at 100% capacity, and winery tasting rooms may open indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Get out there and show your favorite places how much you love them.
Patio with Benefits
Ready for any weather, that’s Jack’s Patio at the super atmospheric beachfront Dream Inn. Our retro beachfront hotel has opened the outdoor dining venue in honor of wetsuit inventor and lifelong surfer Jack O’Neill.
In addition to a spectacular view, what locals and visitors alike can enjoy is live music and diverse dishes served at appropriately distanced picnic tables, under umbrellas for daytime and heat lamps for coastal evenings. Be good to yourselves, you know you need it, and stop by Jack’s Patio for a cocktail or a meal while enjoying the longboard action or twinkling lights of Monterey. Snacks, salads, burgers, and designer tacos. Thursdays offers a three-course prime rib dinner. Your call.
Jack’s Patio, 175 W. Cliff Drive, at the top of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Brunch: Friday-Sunday, 8am-2pm; Dinner: Thursday-Sunday, 5pm-9pm. jackoneillrestaurant.com.