Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eat Like an Italian in the VC

As published in the VC Reporter Dining Guide, April 2010.

I am planning my third trip to Italy, and as is usually the case, my itinerary revolves around the meals and not the sights. The trip is several months from now and my voracious appetite simply cannot wait, but I find that right here in Ventura County, we have everything an Italian foodie could possibly want. We have the wine, we have the gelato, we have the osterias and the pizzerias, we even have the climate, so why not take a trip to Italy right here, right now?
In Italy, a proper restaurant with crisp, white tablecloths, dim lighting, multiple courses and professional service can be found on every corner. Here, we really have to look for it, but despair not, it can be found! While their menu at Osteria Monte Grappa takes mostly from Northern Italy, they also draw local inspiration from the farmers markets and by hiking the backcountry where they forage for wild mushrooms. Porcinis or chanterelles find themselves on the specials list, tossed with pasta or polenta and topped with a drizzle of truffle oil and shaved grana padano – a poor man’s parmesan. Molto delizioso!
Osteria Monte Grappa, 205 N. Signal Street, Ojai, 640-6767

Pizzerias and tavola caldas (Italy’s version of fast food) are plentiful in Italy for casual everyday dining. While the VC has pizzerias galore, few are authentic. The southern end of the boot is well represented by Sicily by Gino in downtown Ventura, where hand-rolled pizzas with fresh ingredients and well-sauced lasagnas keep the customers coming back for more.
Sicily by Gino, 563 E. Main Street, Ventura, 641-2220

I will never forget my delight at experiencing the self-serve Enomatic machines in a wine bar in Chianti. I was even more delighted when The Cave at Ventura Wine Company opened with the same machines offering 16 red wines and eight chilled white wines poured as one-to-five-ounce tastes (from 65 cents to $3.00 or more). With the swipe of a pre-paid card and the push of a button, this is truly the candy store for oenophiles.
The Cave, 4435 McGrath Street #301, Ventura, 642-9449

Every day, Italians enjoy a copetta (a small cup) of gelato on their way home from work. Gelato is a richer, denser version of our ice cream with more intense flavor. Beautiful displays of homemade gelato can be seen from shop windows throughout Italy, making a daily copetta hard for anyone – tourist or local - to resist. Palermo in downtown Ventura offers a daily selection of irresistible flavors including dark chocolate, local honey lavender and a blackberry cabernet sorbetto. Magnifico!
Palermo, 321 E. Main Street, 643-3070

So, don’t worry about the plane ticket, just look around the corner and taste what the VC has to offer. Buon appetito!