Piatti -- Santa Barbara
In Italian Piatti means plates. To me, Piatti means dinner with Mom. The Montecito gem is tucked in back of the upper village shopping center off San Ysidro Road, right next to Pierre Lafond and Co., the market, deli, cafe and wine bar that has become a Santa Barbara institution. The main draw for us is Piatti's outdoor patio which sits along a meandering stream and is outfitted with a beautiful fireplace. Piatti has become our local escape to Italy, even if just for several hours...
Piatti's food probably won't be winning a Michelin star nor a James Beard award, but the restaurant is turning out some fine Italian food. I have found the food to be fairly consistent and the service always good, if not very friendly. This is a local's spot. We cannot go in without running into family friends or my Mother's elementary school students. It's where the neighborhood congregates and there is always a warm, friendly vibe permeating the inviting space. It is also great for families with young children. They are quick to bring the kids paper and crayons so their parents can enjoy that first cocktail.
The salads are quite large; I have often ordered the small salad as my lunch entree. My personal favorite is their spinach salad. The spinach leaves are so fresh and the dressing has a perfect sweetness to tame the bitterness of the leaves. Also noteworthy are the tricolore and Caesar salads. Really, you cannot go wrong with any salad at Piatti. Their pizzas and pastas are very good as well, everything is homemade. My favorite pasta is the papardelle with shrimp in a light white wine and lemon sauce. It is divine. All of the pastas are offered as half orders as well, a nice touch and not seen often enough on menus. We like to split a salad and order our own half portions of pasta. As for proteins, their meatloaf is made with veal and is quite indulgent and rich. It is often taken home and used for a sandwich the following day. The seafood entrees are always nice and light as well.
The wines by the glass are priced very fairly. Another draw to the restaurant for me is that they serve Sonoma-Cutrer by the glass, one of my most favorite buttery chardonnays. I believe it is priced around $12 a glass which is unheard of anywhere else but particularly for Montecito. In fact, all their prices are fair and I am sure that has a lot to do with why the restaurant is always packed.
If you're staying at the San Ysidro Ranch and feel like heading down the hill for something a little more casual and have already done the Plow and Angel, you can't beat Piatti. The most telling part about a restaurant, to me, is it's loyalty and whether or not the locals frequent it, Piatti happens to be one of those places. For me, it means coming home to Mom.