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Entries in Beach (13)


Stagnaro's on the Wharf, Santa Cruz

Stagnaro’s on the Wharf in Santa Cruz has been there since I was a kid and long before that. I remember getting an apple juice back in those days along with a shrimp cocktail. Since then, I’ve replaced apple juice with tomato juice; aka a Bloody Mary.

It was evening and dinner was in order; a simple clam chowder and fish and chips.


I’ll say, for as cliché and touristy as it is, Stagnaro’s on the Wharf in Santa Cruz served up a fantastic fish and chips. Their clam chowder was a little too thick for me though. I’m guessing they’re heavy handed on potato starch or some other thickening agent. It was good, just not great. And considering I made a scratch clam chowder a week before, less than a mile from the wharf, mine was a lot better.

Back to the deep fried fish. Mixed white fish in a crispy breading, now that was tasty. Served with tartar sauce, lemon, and cocktail sauce the mixed deep-fried plate was a straightforward as it should be. Not greasy, not heavy, just simple. I didn’t eat many of the fries, but of the one I had, they were also deep fried properly.

Stagnaro’s is part nostalgia, part history, part tradition. It’s what we love about the place, some things don’t change, both in memory and reality.

Stagnaro Bros. Seafood on Urbanspoon


Walnut Avenue Cafe

A short walk from the iconic Dream Inn, The Walnut Avenue Café is a locals and tourists breakfast spot. I didn't feel like waffles or French toast, so I opted for carnitas, beans, eggs and salsa over tortillas. A big glob of food. A big mess on a plate. A deliciously messy glob of food on a plate.

This breakfast isn’t rocket science, haute cuisine, Mexican, American or otherwise.

This breakfast is something I might consider making at home if I cooked Mexican food the night before, drank one too many tequila, went to bed at 4am, woke up hung over to a bunch of unrefrigerated leftovers and needed to get some food in my belly as fast as possible so that the two Excedrin I took 5 minutes before don’t burn a hole in my stomach lining.

Suffice it to say, I finished my entire plate of food and was a better man for it.

Walnut Avenue Cafe on Urbanspoon


Gjelina, Venice

All the dishes were simply prepared, simply constructed. Make no mistake, simple doesn’t equal easy. Simple is often harder to do, due to the margin of error. Overcook the cauliflower and it’s mushy and tastes more like rotten cabbage. Over spice your sausage and the balance of the whole dish is off.

We started with the Escarole and Sunchoke topped with Smoked Almonds, Lemon Preserve and Parmesan was a clean with good acid balance . The lemon preserve was what keyed me in on the dish. The theme of North African resonated throughout the menu. As I said, straightforward, good flavors.

Our main, Moroccan Baked Eggs w/ Merguez, Chili, Tomato Sauce, Cilantro & Spiced Yogurt was a huge hit with me. This dish could be installed into the Best Breakfast in the World next to Chilaquiles in Merida, Fresh Pastry in Paris, and Bacon and Eggs at Home. I couldn’t get enough of this stuff.

Our side, Wood Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Chili & Vinegar. I made this dish a couple weeks later and I hate cauliflower. I added some golden raisins to my dish, but Gjelina did real justice to one of my least favorite vegetables.

Literally, no downside to any dish. All well prepared, good portions, well presented. Service was good, ticket times were good.

And I love their policy of “changes & modifications politely declined”.

I wouldn’t change a thing! (But how hard is that to do in picky LA?!)

Gjelina on Urbanspoon

Mamma Lucia, Santa Cruz

The atmosphere here is casual and less hectic than Café Lucio. Italian music, the one major atmospheric element taken from Café Lucio is being played Lucio style…meaning, it’s blaring in the background. All orders are taken at the counter and patrons take their number to an open table; food is then delivered by an expediter. The menu is Italian American, incorporating burgers and fries. The pasta menu consists of ItalAmer staples, pomodoro, alfredo, ragu. Pizzas and Panini are abundant.


I ordered the fettuccine alfredo. The portion size is a little smaller than Lucio’s. In other words, a normal portion for one person.  It’s creamy, the pasta is cooked properly, and it’s good. It’s not exactly how Lucio would make it. I don’t taste any nutmeg and it doesn’t have a yellowish hew to it either. Lucio would add an egg yolk to the sauce off-heat just before tossing the pasta through. But as I mentioned, this is ItalAmer cuisine, not hard core Lucio cuisine.


Mamma Lucia may be the best spot in Santa Cruz, for an easy, no nonsense plate of food cooked from scratch if you want to bring the kids and not wait for Lucio to cook for you in between cigarette breaks or personally making espresso for 20 people while juggling 10 other meal orders.

Mamma Lucia on Urbanspoon


The Filling Station, Santa Cruz

Nice shot of espresso. The owner even gave me a small shot of sparkling water, very Italian. The venue itself is really cool. I like the converted filling station and the resulting layout of the café. It’s a couple doors down from Mamma Lucia and a high-end burger place, so it’s easy to find.

Filling Station on Urbanspoon