Ristorante Barolo adds homemade touches to its Italian specialties in the Historic Bayview Hotel
At eight in the morning I was craving Italian food so I headed into Aptos Village where the county's oldest hotel, the Bayview Bed and Breakfast Inn, houses Ristorante Barolo.
The breakfast room was originally a wrap-around portico of the home which was built in 1878. It was remodeled in 1883 to add the third story, where dormer windows protrude from the mansard roof. Likely the Italianate features were added then, such as faux cornerstone quoins and decorative triangular pediments over the doors and windows.
Inside, various antiques and knickknacks, including a clock collection, decorated swords, and a Victrola, along with French marble fireplaces, evoke the romance of a century ago. The portico is shaded by a huge, knobby-trunked white magnolia tree, and at 120 years, thought to be the second oldest in the world.
For breakfast, Omelette Marinara ($10) was just what I sought, although it was difficult to pass on orange-filled and flambéed Crêpes Suzette ($13). The thin omelette was incredibly fluffy, folded in half over a bit of mozzarella, and topped with thick, tart marinara. It was served with simply seasoned, smoky roast potatoes, thin curls of house-made, air-dried pancetta (unsmoked cured bacon), and oval slices of Italian toast. The bread, crisped with panini press-like ridges was served with fresh butter and sweet whole fruit strawberry preserves; so good I accepted a second helping. With my muscles loaded with fabulous Italian carbs, I considered a walk in the neighboring Forest of Nisene Marks. Um, maybe next time.
When we arrived for lunch, the room was perfumed with the aroma of baking bread, which in short order arrived at our table. We enjoyed its thin, tender, tanned crust and warm fluffy interior with a side of olive oil spiked with herbs, chili flakes and salt-rubbed garlic.
There was an interesting smoky flavor in the salty white wine and garlic broth which bore Steamed Mussels and Clams ($12.50), heavily flecked with herbs and tomatoes.
The Spinach Salad ($8.50) was topped with crisp pancetta, quartered tomatoes, a still-warm halved hard boiled egg with bright yellow yolk, and dressed with a light balsamic and olive oil dressing.
Penne alla Bosciola ($9.50) featured al dente tubes of pasta in tomato sauce, mushrooms, and spicy house-made Italian sausage flavored with fennel seeds. I was impressed by the simplicity of the more traditional Spaghetti à la Carbonara ($9.50). Often a gummy mass of noodles and cheese soaked in cream, Barolo's recipe used just noodles, eggs, thick, chewy pieces of pancetta, black pepper and a touch of cheese for a lighter and flavorful entrée.
At lunch, traditional panini ($8.50 to $10.50), served with salad, potatoes or soup, include smoked salmon and mascarpone as well as a one-third pound Burger Italiano ($10.50) which was served on house-made rounds of bread the size of a 45 rpm record and an inch thick.
I'm looking forward to spring, when the large garden patio is open and the wood-burning pizza oven is stoked for business.
Ristorante Barolo, 8041 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 688-8654. Serving breakfast 8-11:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., happy hour 4 to 6:30 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Bar open until 2 a.m. Visit baroloristorante.com
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