I remember coming to Santa Cruz back in the 80’s, before Silicon Valley became the land of the young and rich. Back then there was this element of hippie types mixed in with yuppies. The innocence was still apparent and the food was marginal at best. Now Santa Cruz has become a culinary delight and Café Mare is right up there with the best of them.
I would describe the interior as simple elegance. Café Mare’s sensational food paired with a relaxed atmosphere, all contribute to the experience. Its large dining room, built for good conversation is perfect for any occasion.
Here is what I tried:
Berry Lemon Drop Absolut Citron vodka, fresh lemon juice, orange curacao, Chambord. This cocktail is a great take on a lemon drop, but with a handcrafted combination of higher quality ingredients.
Mellow Melon Imperia Vodka, fresh lemon juice, fresh orange juice, Midori Liquor, served with a layer of fresh watermelon juice. It is amazingly refreshing, served in a martini glass.
Juliette Fresh muddled raspberries, Ketel One vodka, orange bitters, house made grenadine, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice & fresh grapefruit juice. Nicely done and served up with white chocolate and cocoa rim.
Formaggi Stagionati Assorted aged Italian cheeses and olives. They presented me with some rare and unusual cheese; the truffle cheese-smelled like the forest and the drunken cheese from Tuscany was terrific. I hardly ever try a cheese plate, but next time I would skip this appetizer.
Cozze e Vongole Fresh mussels and clams sautéed with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomato basil and white wine. The broth alone will make you drop to your knees, couple that with the fresh shellfish and your in heaven.
Salmone Affumicato Marinated wild smoked salmon with fresh mascarpone cheese, baby dill & capers. The salmon’s smooth and luscious texture paired wonderfully with the creaminess of the mascarpone cheese.
Insalate Cesare Organic romaine hearts tossed with our homemade Caesar dressing, topped with hand shaved Parmigiano and Sicilian anchovies. Caesar salads are a favorite of mine, and each one is a little bit different. I loved this one.
Ravioli della Nonna Walnut filled ravioli served in a Gorgonzola cheese cream sauce. Café Mare seems to have a handle on all of their ravioli’s…they were all very delicious!
Crespolini di Zucca House made crepe filled with roasted butternut squash, walnuts & Parmigiano in a brulee butter & sage sauce. This is not what I am used to as far as butternut squash pasta goes, but expand your mind and you will indulge in a very exciting experience. This dish will make your taste buds dance.
Ravioli Mare Seafood filled ravioli served in a prosecco cream sauce with prawns. Mouth-watering ravioli topped with a rich cream sauce, my kind of pasta!
Spaghetti Mistomare Spaghetti sautéed with fresh clams, mussels, prawns & calamari in a tomato sauce. This is a lovely pasta dish with very fresh seafood.
Penne alla Bolognese Penne pasta served in a slow cooked ground beef tomato sauce. The Bolognese sauce is meaty goodness with a little kick.
Di Parma Tomato mozzarella & prosciutto di Parma. This has a nice crispy crust with flavorsome ingredients, which makes for a tasty pie.
Poppy-Chardonnay: This wines buttery texture paired great with the seafood pasta.
Premitivo – Oldouines Plaio: This wine is considered to be the Italian Zinfandel, and it did not disappoint. With it’s rich cherry flavors, it lends itself to the
Pizza Di Parma.
Christi-Poggio Capponi Chianti: This wine pairs wonderfully with tomato-based sauces, so it went great with the Penne alla Bolognese.
Owners Jean Pierre Iuliano from Calabria, and Andrea Mura from the island of Sardinia, both want to give their customers a very authentic Italian experience. They use organic, fresh ingredients combined with recipes straight from their homeland to create their deliciously, traditional menu.
Café Mare has been open for 13 years. They have lots of regulars and most people that come are in search of authentic Italian cuisine, in all its glory.
I really enjoyed my experience here at Café Mare; the food and the libation all hit the spot. When I schedule these tastings I try to give the owners all of my information so they know what to expect on my visit. Owner Andrea did not do his research, he asked me a few times about whom I wrote for and where it would be going. All I can say is check me out online and you can see that I have been doing this for over 4 years, and am way past 250 restaurants, and hotel reviews.
Happy Hour: Sunday-Thursday, 5PM-7PM
Full Bar, Lunch & Dinner
Cucina Italiana Restaurant & Bar
740 Front Street, Suite 100
Santa Cruz, CA.