Sunday, May 27, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Leonardo's Ristorante and Pizzeria in Solvang is a perfect spot for a luxurious lunch


Tucked in the corner of the Nielsen's shopping center in Solvang, it might be easy to miss Leonardo's Ristorante and Pizzeria.

Leonardo’s Ristorante and Pizzeria offers a full and diverse wine menu along with their authentic Calabrian dining experience. Plus the ambiance is peaceful but friendly.

It's separated from the busy tourist-heavy streets of downtown Solvang and the shopping and dining districts of Los Olivos and Santa Ynez. But once inside, it's clear the venue is playing on the same level as the other culinary heavy hitters in the region.

Because I can never decide, I went with soup and salad for a starter. For my salad, I chose the burrata con caponata (which isn't really a "salad," technically, but play along with me). Caponata is a traditional Sicilian dish similar to a ratatouille, made with eggplant, tomatoes, capers, celery, and other ingredients. It is cooked slowly and the eggplant absorbs a lot of flavors during the process. Topped with burrata cheese, the dish makes for a wonderful study in contrasts. I like burrata cheese on just about everything, so it's hard to go wrong here. To add texture, Leonardo's version includes pistachios, which works as a nice contrast to the overall creaminess of the dish.

Burrata cheese makes any dish better, and it’s an especially decadent ingredient when paired with caponata, a Sicilian dish made with eggplant.

The butternut squash soup, one of my favorite dishes of all time, was seasoned perfectly and tasted fresh but not too sweet. A good butternut squash soup lets the ingredient shine, without relying too heavily on creams or other agents to bear the weight of flavor. I want to taste vegetables and fresh ingredients when I order soup, not thick buttery concoctions that taste more like sauces, and Leonardo's understands this.

I then had the penne pescatore, which I ordered as part of an overall effort on my part to incorporate more fish into my diet. This dish is a great way to give yourself a healthy dose of pasta (the penne was cooked to perfection) along with a good variety of seafood. The dish had mussels, calamari, and shrimp. As a bonus, the shrimp were big and cooked expertly with a touch of garlic that wasn't too aggressive.

Leonardo’s Ristorante and Pizzeria in Solvang has a strong lunch menu offering solid dishes including penne pescatore, made with clams, mussels, and shrimp in a garlic tomato basil wine sauce.

There is a whole range of pizzas as well, including the la calabrisella, made with mozzarella, tomato, and a spicy soppressata. I think soppressata, traditionally found in Calabria, is one of the best meats of all time, and I don't understand why it's not on every sandwich ever made in America.

The interior of the restaurant is intimate, with a long bar (serving beer and wine) to one side and a long row of clever black and white Italian/pasta-themed photos on the opposite wall. It feels crisp but not too fussy, a sign that you can expect refined Italian cooking that doesn't distance itself from the true family roots of authentic Calabrian and Sicilian food at the Leonardo's.

È buono

Leonardo’s is located at 632 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang. More info: (805) 686-0846.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose wants extra cheese, please. Contact her at 


The Hitching Post 2 in Buellton opens a tasting room.

The Hitching Post 2 (pictured) in Buellton recently announced the opening of its first tasting room, launching in July. The new location will feature many of the venue's single-vineyard bottlings as well as special older vintages of its popular wines. The new tasting room location is 420 East Highway 246, in a property adjacent to the restaurant.

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort has a new food and beverage director, Kyle Erickson. The Santa Barbara native is a certified sommelier; he will work in tandem with Executive Chef Anthony Endy. Erickson has introduced a quarterly winemaker dinner series open to the public and has expanded the cocktail offerings at Alisal's Oak Room bar.  Alisal is located at 1054 Alisal Road, Solvang.

• If you haven't yet checked out Valley Craft Gelato, you should. Launched by Alessio Carnevale, who hails from Calabria, Italy, the business offers handmade frozen gelatos including Santa Barbara pistachio (pictured) and lemon zest, roasted coconut and white chocolate, honey and lavender, and fig sorbetto. Visit them online at

Santa Barbara pistachio gelato from Valley Craft Gelato.

Rooney's Irish Pub in Orcutt is in the process of transitioning to Blast 825 Brewery Central Coast Kitchen and Local Craft Beer. According to a recent Instagram post for the new Blast 825, the venue (famed for their Irish Shanty brewing) will continue making beer under Blast 825 Brewery. They also plan to have monthly collaborations with Central Coast breweries, nearly 50 self-serve taps, wood-fired pizza, a beer garden, and a new expanded menu. I will keep you posted. The venue is located at 241 S. Broadway, Orcutt.

• A new venue called Bodega in Los Alamos has been teasing their opening on Instagram since April 30. Bodega recently announced it was partnering with Sunday Suppers as part of their Sobremesa series to host a dinner party in Los Alamos. Find out more on Bodega's mysterious and fun looking Instagram page @bodegalosalamos.

• Speaking of Los Alamos, the Skyview Motel has undergone a huge facelift, including a revamp of their restaurant, now named Norman (which I heard the owners chose as a tribute to the spooky Psycho-esque reputation the hotel had). Check out the gorgeous renovations at 9150 Highway 101, Los Alamos.

Weekly Poll
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