Main Street Garden & Café now features Italian countryside cuisine
Farm to table doesn't get much closer than at Main Street Garden & Café. Kiwi vines shade the patio, and what's ripe on the vines in the restaurant's cheery organic garden is featured on the menu. Guests are even encouraged to wander amongst the plants.
The produce that isn't grown on-site is sourced from local organic farms. The fish is also local and sustainably harvested, and the meats are pasture-raised.
We recently enjoyed a weekend lunch by the green lawn on the sunny, dog-friendly patio. Chickens, whose eggs would be featured in frittatas, clucked in their coop. We were eager to taste the "Italian countryside cuisine" that the new ownership brought to Soquel five months ago.
It was a challenge to choose from the list of seven antipasti, insalate and zuppe ($8 to $9). Garden-grown greens were paired with ingredients like ruby red apples, lemon, and Gorgonzola. Shaved garden squash joined shelling beans, and poblano chilies in tomatillo vinaigrette. We chose an incredible salumi plate ($9) with four kinds of salami from Santa Cruz's own El Salchichero. The charcuterie boasted heavy flavors, reminiscent of Europe's finest. They were served with pickled dandelion greens with a tart, yet sweet pickle kind of flavor, and peach mostarda. Mostarda is a popular Italian condiment for meats and cheeses that pairs mustard with fruit.
Main Street's version featured diced peaches in sweet syrup with large mustard seeds that popped between the teeth. We alternately scooped it up with paper-thin slivers of flat bread and salami. The pasta ($16 and $17) is made in-house at Main Street Garden, and the day's choices were squid ink linguini, vegetarian ricottagnocchi, and our choice, pappardelle verde. These wide, flat, pale green noodles were mixed with a juicy and tasty ragout of minced pork, dry-farmed tomatoes, and garden chard and topped with fine shreds of pecorino cheese.
Crespelle ($17 to $19) are the Italians' rendition of crêpes, and each of them sounded delicious. Apples with Brussels sprouts, sheep ricotta and pecorino, or chicken with eggplant, dry-farmed tomatoes and mascarpone were both tempting. However, it's hard for me to pass up smoked salmon.
Two thin, herb-flecked pancakes were rolled and topped with a light, gently flavored cream sauce, allowing the stuffing to take center stage. Main
Street's salmon was firm, moist, and not too salty and mixed with zucchini from the garden, and sliced padron peppers. I was lucky and got a hot one.
Desserts ($3 to $8) include house-made gelato ($3), a scoop being the ideal size for satiated appetites. For once, I even passed on the chocolate flavor. Faintly green, the basil gelato was like a refreshing, sweet ball of pesto. The beautiful purplish raspberry-balsamic vinegar flavor smacked my tongue with acid, and melted into perfect sweetness.
Main Street Garden & Café, 3101 N. Main St., Soquel, 477-9265. Beer and wine. Serving dinner Wednesday-Sunday from 5:30 p.m., and lunch Saturday and Sunday from noon-3 p.m. Visit mainstreetgardencafe.com. Live music on Wednesdays. Thursday, Sept. 27 is Chef's Night, and Chef Chris Carloni will offer a fixed-course menu ($40) with paired wines ($20).
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