Dining Reviews

Santa Cruz Restaurant Week 2021 a Success

Plus, 50 years of local celeb chef Jozseph Schultz, Avanti Santa Cruz thrives and Verve Coffee’s amazing holiday gifts

Jozseph Schultz (second row, sixth from right), surrounded by fans and supporters in front of the former site of the original India Joze—where he will be feted on Saturday, Nov. 13. PHOTO: PAUL SCHRAUB

Full House

Last week hundreds of diners, tired of being cooped up, decided to accept an offer too good to refuse—the special menus of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week. And the word is that the participating restaurants experienced positive results, full houses and new patrons. At La Posta and Soif, both offering $45/three-course menus loaded with pastas, wild mushrooms and expressive desserts, the tables were full. At both places, the week was a big success. “Lots of very happy diners, somewhat exuberant to be out,” said owner Patrice Boyle. Damani Thomas’ Oswald enjoyed a lot of dining traffic during Restaurant Week; patrons were attracted to the seasonally inflected menu of popular house specialties. Over at Sugo Italian Pasta Bar on the Eastside, owner Marco Paoletti told me that the week “worked out very well.” Paoletti chose to run a $25 menu. “We tried to have a price to attract new customers,” the owner said. Sugo’s menu stressed seafood and pasta favorites, from gnocchi primavera to fettuccine porcini with sausage. The tiramisu limoncello dessert helped draw a crowd of new fans.
“Yes, it was successful in attracting new customers,” Paoletti said. “A lot of people came because they saw our listing in Good Times.” At Gabriella Cafe, Paul Cocking’s $45 menu filled the house, the patio and the sidewalk parklet. “Yeah,” admitted Cocking, “it was unreasonably busy. Most of the people who came already knew about the event, but I’d say we were 20% to 30% busier than normal. It was quite remarkable; even though we did the $45 menu, which I think might be a bit high for some folks, still people loved the idea. They thought it was a big deal.” Part of Gabriella’s big deal had to do with remarkable dishes like the pan-roasted rockfish with chimichurri, the luscious roast beets with goat cheese, and of course, pastry chef Connie Villalobos’ intriguing desserts.

A Half-Century of Joze

No one can claim insider knowledge of Santa Cruz, who has not feasted on the complex, high-wattage cuisine of Jozseph Schultz. And those of us who’ve been here for a while recall with pleasure the many Calamari Festival courses, the Persian New Year exotica, the sheer dazzle of the chef’s hand—and the extraordinary phenomenon that was the original, larger-than-life India Joze. Well, for one day only, Nov. 13, we—or at least a whole lot of us—will be able to take a seat in the original Joze Art Center interior and enjoy dining, theater, magic and major reminiscing to help celebrate 50 years of India Joze artistry. Don’t hesitate. There won’t be another chance. Tickets available at eventbrite.com.

Sablefish Gusto at Avanti

Passionfruit reduction over a transparent sauté of leeks. Incredible! Along with baby carrots, fennel and potatoes came a plump pan-roasted sablefish ($32). The leeks’ elusively wonderful nuances of lemon and passionfruit elevated the fish to something close to the sublime; another notable dish from the kitchen of Avanti Santa Cruz, one of our go-to spots for carryout or patio dining. We joined the seafood with an order of the always-killer Dinosaur Kale salad, laced with almonds, citrus, Ricotta Salata and delicate bread crumbs ($13). avantisantacruz.com.

Verve Gifts for Coffee Lovers

Here’s a preview of holiday gift possibilities: for $30, you can acquire the Craft Coffee Duo, involving a 12 oz. whole bean bag of Verve’s Holiday Blend, plus a Kinto diner mug. Easy peasy. Or, for the coffee newbie, a Blend Essentials trio of Verve’s best-selling blends: three 8oz whole bean packages of Holiday, Streetlevel and Sermon Blends. $35, and you’re done! At your local Verve. vervecoffee.com.

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