Café Mare is a must for authentic Italian cuisine

A diverse clientele – couples, families, visitors, regulars – was already in fine dining mode when we arrived at Cafe Mare last week to enjoy the air-conditioned joys of a fresh Italian meal. A landmark for decades, this enduring restaurant offers generous seating, a long and unpretentious menu, a full bar, and attentive service. The menu reflects the sensibilities of its Calabrian owner, and last week we enjoyed testing Italian with our waiter, a young man living the good life, football and surfing by day, waiting tables at this central establishment. -city at night.

The all-organic menu prompted us to order a vibrant arugula salad topped with thick rounds of pancetta, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese ($16.50). We chased down the exceptionally fresh and peppery arugula with our glasses of Chianti Poggio Caponi 2019 ($10) while listening to Chet Baker deliver the US Open soundtrack visible above the very well-stocked bar. White tablecloths and a laid-back urban vibe, thanks to the basement dining room, everyone feels welcome. The long daily opening hours also make Cafe Mare a must.

my entry from gamberoni alla diavola absolutely hit the spot. The large plate arrived with a large group of large prawns sautéed in a spicy tomato white wine sauce topped with capers. The prawns were joined by excellent roast potatoes and perfectly al dente broccoli crowns. The broccoli ($27.50) really won us over. Not the usual afterthought, this lovely emerald vegetable had received some care and retained both its crunch and flavor intensity.

There were more addictive potatoes (why don’t people think of exceptional potatoes when they think of Italian food – they should) and crispy broccoli on Jack’s classic plate Cutlets Vitello, done a la piccata in a light wine, butter and caper sauce ($27.50). Sometimes you don’t need a hugely innovative and designer dining experience. You just want to enjoy a dinner that tastes exactly how you want it to taste.

Our generous pours of red wine (plus half a bottle of sparkling water) kept us company throughout our meal. This place is timeless, with no need for designer statements, just a few mid-century touches like the red rose in the table vases and the black and white photos of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra in the hallways. Retro, but with youthful energy. Definitely a nice place to dine, even if you haven’t planned ahead.

For dessert, we shared a glass bowl of tiramisu ($8) which my companion loved for its good booze-soaked ladyfingers. I would have liked a thicker layer of mascarpone cream cheese, but it was a sweet finish to a great meal.

Cafe Mare, 740 Front St. #100, Santa Cruz. Open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. cafemare.com.

PRO TIP

I’m one of those people who likes to make a whole new dish with leftovers. You know, shredding last night’s chicken breast to top a bed of greens with late-harvested, dry-grown tomatoes. Add whatever sounds interesting and drizzle with a tangy dressing. From our dinner at Cafe Mare we had leftover prawns so I took a couple days boat petral sole fillets of New Leaf Market, sauté and garnish with the shrimp and the remaining spicy diavolo sauce. Major transformation. A whole new culinary experience. Added a salad of little gems and glasses of delicious Lubanzi South African GSM (now available in cans – very portable, easy to open and only $5.99 for a big 355ml picnic serving). And grilled the beloved IEQa remarkable woman for nearly a century.

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