The reincarnation of Carniglia's offers a relaxing view, friendly service, and excellent seafood
The news of Carniglia's closing was still reverberating through the community when the cherished wharf restaurant re-opened on February 13. In just 29 long-hour days, new owners and management created a menu and re-staffed in time for Valentine's Day. The partnership of local restaurateurs Germaine Grangerakin and Martin Drobac makes Carniglia's a half sister of Riva Fish House, 515 Kitchen, and Red Restaurant.
On my first visit, proficient, casually attired servers were in awe of their new work environment; the blue bay reflecting warm sun through the expanse of wraparound picture windows. Crayons waited on every paper-covered table with an amazingly functional rock salt and pepper grinder. Silverware was rolled in napkins the color of my spicy Gladiator house Merlot ($5), which was robust for this varietal and bore the appetizing scent of bacon.
A carafe of water and sliced lemon was delivered with a pair of sturdy, ice-filled tumblers, fancifully streaked with blue and green. Minced garlic, speckled with red chilies and fresh rosemary, was served with crusty Italian bread and focaccia. The latter, baked in-house every morning, was topped with crystals of coarse salt and anise seeds which offered bright bursts of mild licorice flavor.
The half Caesar Salad ($6.99) featured a row of crisp, heart leaves of romaine lettuce drizzled with thick, tart Caesar dressing and topped with shaved armesan and thick fillets of anchovies. I added a fresh piece of Alaskan salmon ($4.99) which was grilled to perfection. Chicken, skirt steak and prawns are also available.
The salmon is also served as an entrée ($14.99) with choice of two sides including Parmesan-garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. A colorful array of green and red bell peppers, strips of summer squash, and carrots was arranged in a gleaming white bowl.
Fettuccini and Clams ($13.99) was a winner. Whole clams cooked in white wine with garlic and herbs sat atop thin ribbons of homemade noodles tossed with bacon, meaty mushrooms and a creamy yet not heavy sauce.
I returned a week later to sample more of Carniglia's creations. A cup of Hearty Minestrone ($3.99) lived up to its name. A white slanted-rim bowl held soft shreds of braised pork, thick tubular pasta, little cannellini beans, and bits of carrot and tomato in a thick broth. My appetite was practically satiated.
Black-clad server Jordan, whose smile lit up the drizzly day, raved about the new Salmon Burger ($9.99). Chunks of fresh salmon mixed with shallots and red bell peppers were pressed into a thick patty and sautéed until golden. It was served in a huge sesame seed bun, with fresh tomatoes, carefully arranged rings of red onion, iceberg lettuce, and Louie dressing. Piping hot, delicately seasoned fries were crisp on the outside and as soft as mashed potatoes in the centers.
In the future, Carniglia's is hoping to add outside dining, and in the fall, expects to remodel the interior.
Carniglia's, Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 458-3600. Cash only (on-site ATM) and full bar. Serving lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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