37 EAST VICTORIA STREET
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Ca’Dario chef-owner Dario Furlati jokes that if he changed his menu, he might get in trouble with his customers. “They come in for certain favorite dishes,” he says, some of which he’s been serving since the restaurant opened in 1997. Of course, who can blame the chef’s regulars for holding him hostage to his own cooking? He’s from Lake Como, and his menu reflects his northern roots in classic dishes like homemade ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta and drizzled with sage butter; whole oven-baked branzino, an identity element of Italian cooking; and a 24-ounce bone-in rib-eye steak that’s a $36 bargain. “Authentic,” Furlati says, describing his food in a word - which is why it never gets old. But while the regulars might own the main menu, Furlati uses the daily specials to introduce rare regional dishes. From Rome, there’s baked gnocchi topped with butter, sage and Parmesan, and from Trentino, he might serve canerderli, a kind of dumpling made with bread, eggs and speck (smoked prosciutto). He also taps local sources for spot prawns, halibut, duck, quail and even venison - maybe grilled and finished in the oven with shallots, garlic and rosemary. Add wines from California, Italy, Chile, France and Argentina, and a dessert list of carefully made classics, and you’ll defending the menu against change, too.