Try this is a weekly column that celebrates local businesses — especially eateries, watering holes, coffee shops and the like.
Kiantis Pizza & Pasta Bar
I love almost all Italian food. A long-time staple in this category, and consistently good, is Kiantis Pizza & Pasta Bar, 1100 Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz. Kelly Kissee and Tracy Parks-Barber opened the place in 2004 and they’ve been crowded ever since. They have indoor and outdoor seating and feature a wide array of Italian favorites. I always get their “Build Your Own” pasta plate. This gives you a choice of pasta, sauces and toppings (and it comes with garlic bread) for a reasonable price. Now for the different part: During peak hours the entire staff, by surprise, tone down the lights, boost up the music and form a dance line that takes over the entire place for the customer’s delight. It’s an incredible thing to witness and spices up the evening.
Riva Fish House: in-house fizzy lemonade
I’ve written about Riva Fish House before. It’s the popular seafood and California grill restaurant on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. My wife Sarah and I have been going there for decades. I’ve found their in-house fizzy lemonade to be a refreshing beverage that goes with just about anything—fish and chips, pasta or with their incredible Philly cheesesteak sandwich. If you luck out and catch a window seat you simply can’t fail at this place, especially if it’s during a great sunset.
I’ve developed the habit of dropping in on the festivities at the Museum of Art and History in downtown Santa Cruz on Friday nights for various art-related events, exhibits and live music. Last Friday the rock band Hot Fuse was on the outdoor stage at Abbott Square. Besides being free, it’s a relaxed spot to people watch—we even got in some dancing—grab some ice cream, a cappuccino or a snack and engage with our community.
For a breakfast treat – who am I kidding: an anytime treat – I like to go to The Buttery bakery, a Santa Cruz institution. The business provided the cake for my wedding, which people are still talking about 17 years later. We also get our birthday cakes there, normally sticking with one dubbed “Our Favorite Chocolate Cake.” I have two go-to treats, which I always get with a cup of the bakery’s piping-hot coffee. The first is their perfectly flaky, wonderfully buttery croissant. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The second – even more decadent – is the Pecan Sandie cookie, which is a slab of tender shortbread, rolled in toasted pecans and topped with a swirl of chocolate frosting. Do yourself a favor and go. 702 Soquel Ave.
Bargetto Wines: 2017 merlot
During a recent dinner I tried a glass of 2017 merlot from Bargetto Wines. I know very little about wines and pairing, but it certainly went with the spaghetti we were eating, and the company we were keeping. And I like supporting local companies.
California State Parks
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I look for cheap thrills. That is to say that one can have family fun without spending a great deal of money. We buy an annual pass to California State Parks, which gets us into more than 100 parks and reservoirs in the state’s Redwood region. At $125, the pass quickly pays for itself, as admission averages at $10.