Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Nov 20th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Worth the Wait

dining_LilliansLillian’s Italian Kitchen celebrates its second birthday
In a nightly ritual, anticipative patrons relax in wooden folding chairs outside of Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, the darling of the Seabright neighborhood. Voted the best new restaurant by Good Times readers in 2008, it is the hospitality extended by patriarch Joseph Moreno, son Matt and the servers up front, along with home-style Italian specialties marvelously executed by son Chris in the kitchen that has garnered this cozy eatery a loyal following. With service so unique that you can enjoy a cocktail at one of the neighboring establishments: your cell phone will ring when your table is ready.

The air here is often thick with jovial conversation. The wine list, although not large, includes local favorites. The menu is a mix of Chef Chris’s grandmother Lillian’s recipes and his own.

During most of the restaurant’s first year, I alternated between three favorites. Sunday Gravy ($9.95), the family’s slowly simmered tomato-based sauce, was loaded with meat and spiced sausage. Perched on a thick, piping hot pedestal of polenta (or pasta), it bestowed homey comfort. Lasagna ($12.95) layers the same sauce high between wide noodles with whole milk ricotta and mozzarella. Plump prawns swam in the wonderfully spicy Diavola sauce ($13.95), served over linguini, penne or polenta.

Recently, I’ve become more adventuresome, and have never been disappointed. Sausage and Peppers ($11.95), over penne or polenta, featured fat half-moon slices of well-seasoned sausage and toothsome roasted red pepper ribbons in bright herbed marinara.  Plump orbs of Gnocchi ($14.95), stuffed with cheese and richly flavored with black truffle oil, is served with your choice of melodious white wine pesto, gorgonzola or tomato cream sauces.

Vegetarians will enjoy Penne Margherita ($8.95) with basil and mozzarella, and Penne Primavera ($11.95) with choice of sauce.

Lil’s Kitchen Special ($12.95), topped with cheese and baked, featured penne in juicy marinara, baby spinach, and crimini mushrooms, roasted to bring out their earthy nuances. I splurged, adding charbroiled New York steak ($6), tender and cooked to medium-rare perfection.

It’s a challenge choosing between soup and salad ($2.80) with an entrée or sandwich.  Fresh greens were piled high, topped with red onions, shredded carrots and halved grape tomatoes in balsamic-pesto vinaigrette. The filling bowl of thick Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta Fazool) soup, with cannellini beans, salad macaroni and kale, ensured I would have enough of the main course left over to make a meal later.

The specials are always a treat. A Caprese appetizer of green-striped chunks of heirloom tomatoes and soft, fresh mozzarella with chiffonade of basil were marinated in olive oil. Wild Alaskan salmon was served with delicate risotto, brightened with asparagus and zucchini.

Fresh bread and desserts are delivered daily from Hoffmann’s Bakery. Whether it’s cheesecake or tiramisu, you won’t be disappointed. However, you will need to wait a few days to visit the Moreno family. Lillian’s will re-open on July 5 following a much-deserved vacation.


Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, 1116 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-2288. Beer and wine. Serving lunch Tuesday through Friday noon to 2 p.m., dinner Monday through Friday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Take-out orders welcome.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Pop Life

The pop-up dining trend is freeing culinary imaginations and creating a guerilla version of event dining around Santa Cruz

 

Over Hills and Plains, Riding a White Horse, Bow and Arrows in Hand

Saturday, early morning, the sun enters and radiates the light of Sagittarius. Three hours later, the Sagittarius new moon (0.07 degrees) occurs. “Let food be sought,” is the personality-building keynote. “Food” means experiences; all kinds, levels and types. It also means real food. Sag’s secret is their love of food. Many, if not musicians, are chefs. Some are both. The energies shift from Scorpio’s deep and transformative waters to the “hills and plains of Sagittarius.” Sag is the rider on a white horse, eyes focused on the mountain peaks of Capricorn (Initiation) ahead. Like Scorpio, Sagittarius is also the “disciple.” Adventure, luck, optimism, joy and the beginnings of gratitude are the hallmarks of Sagittarius. Sag is also one of the signs of silence. The battle lines were drawn in Libra and we were asked to choose where we stood. The Nine Tests were given in Scorpio and we emerged “warriors triumphant.” Now in Sag, we are to be the One-Pointed Disciple, riding over the plains on a white horse, bow and arrows in hand, eyes focused on the Path of Return ahead. Sagittarians are one-pointed (symbol of the arrow). Sag asks, “What is my life’s purpose?” This is their quest, from valleys, plains, meadows and hills, eyes aimed always at the mountaintop. Sag emerges from Scorpio’s deep waters, conflict and tests into the open air. Sag’s quest is humanity’s quest. Sag’s quest, however, is always accompanied by music and good food.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 21

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pie Fidelity

A little Thanksgiving help, plus sip and shop locally at the Art, Wine and Gift Bazaar

 

What should be on everyone’s bucket list?

Hang gliding, because you're free as a bird. Jenni, Santa Cruz, Student/Administrative Assistant

 

Soquel Vineyards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

 

The Kitchen

Chef Santos Majano talks beer-friendly food at Discretion Brewery