Giannfranco’s Trattoria in Carpinteria

Carpaccio in Carpinteria

Giannfrancopatio.jpgSoon after a gracious greeting and
seating, your server brings to the table a saucer with an
overturned condiment cup. With a flourish, the cup is lifted away,
and a pool of golden olive oil rich with herbs, spices, and
sun-dried tomato bits
spreads across the saucer. This is,
of course, for dipping with the fresh, moist, warm slices of pane
embedded with roast garlic cloves that keep coming to your table.
And this is how a visit to Carpinteria’s newest restaurant
begins.

Carp offers a wide variety of eateries, but those that aspire to
the “fine dining” end of the spectrum have been few during recent
years. Now, foodies from S.B. or Ventura have a new reason
to drive to Carp
for lunch and dinner. And Carpinterians
can rejoice that their beloved Zookers (packed every night) is no
longer their only high-end hometown choice.

Giannfranco’s Trattoria opened in early February and has been
delighting patrons ever since, as the buzz spreads that this is
Carp’s newest place-to-try. It is located in the remodeled digs
that once housed the memorable Deli-House, in its hey-day a
favorite lunch spot. Their large tree-shaded back
patio
was one of the only respites in town whenever a rare
summer dog-day hit the Central Giannfranco%27s%202.jpgCoast, and Giannfranco’s has upgraded
that magical space with a fountain (and heaters for non-dog
evenings).

All this has arisen from a partnership of Frank Contreras and
Anna C. Sherwyn with their talented son, Giovanni A. Sherwyn, for
years a private chef for wealthy clients in Lake Sherwood (Westlake
Village area), and a 1997 graduate of SBCC’s culinary program.

The menu has no pizza; its pastas, salads, antipasti and
panini
emphasize lighter meats and several no-meat
choices, all prepared with an executive chef’s panache for
creatively combining primo ingredients with expert-level technique,
and impressive presentation. So far, my wife and I have enjoyed the
following:

“famous chopped salad”— red leaf and iceberg
lettuces, hearts of palm, Roma tomatoes, avocado, red onion,
grilled chicken, and toasted pine nuts with a lemon mustard
vinaigrette ($10; generous enough to be an entrée, we like to split
it);

black mussels and Manila clams steamed in a
saffron-and-herb seasoned broth (appetizer, $11; also excellent as
an entrée with linguini, $14);

oven-roasted Portobello mushrooms with
sautéed garlic spinach and a port wine sauce (outstanding;
appetizer, $9);

Ciao Bella—rigatoni with chicken, kalamatas,
sun-dried tomatoes (better than candy!), and broccoli in a
chardonnay cream sauce ($11);

Frutti di Mare—linguini with seafood in a
nicely balanced tomato Pernod sauce ($14);

Risotto Mare Monte—arborio rice, shiitake
mushrooms, and tiger shrimp, prepared with white-truffle-infused
olive oil ($16) Giannfranco%27s%20exterior.jpg And there are many more (including the
carpaccio) we still look forward to. Note, by the way, that the
prices are not as high-end as the cuisine. Giannfranco’s has a very
respectable wine list with good local choices (Foxen, Jaffurs) as
well as many intriguing, carefully selected Italian varietals.

The menu keeps the finale a secret, but I won’t: Don’t leave
here without scoping out the extraordinary desserts. These are not
just confections, they’re sculptures—in chocolate, fruits,
creams, mousses, and cake
. You’ll want to take their
picture as much as eat them. They’re created by Gio’s sister,
Claudia Kazemi, who is a high-end catering talent in her own
right.

Giannfranco’s Trattoria, 666 Linden Avenue, Carpinteria;
684-0720. Reservation requested for party of 6 or more. Lunch, 11-3
p.m. Lighter fare, 3-5 p.m. Dinner, 5-9 p.m.

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