If you’ve ever been to one of Santa Barbara’s countless fundraising-with-food events, then you’ve had this moment. There’s a crowd, so you can’t quite see what booth you’re headed to, but you certainly can smell it. Woody, slightly evergreen, enveloping and enticing, mildly minty, musky — it’s sage, you realize, crisped in brown butter. Then you reach for Ca’ Dario’s trademark dish, ravioli al burro e salvia, and eat the pasta pillows with the same utter joy you’ve experienced at similar festivals before. We awarded the dish one of The Santa Barbara Independent’s first Foodie Awards for good reason.
That delectable moment alone justifies why the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is honoring Dario Furlati at the 3rd Annual Fork & Cork Classic, an April 10 fundraiser at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club that will also celebrate winemaker Steve Beckmen and Jack Motter and Jeff Kramer of Ellwood Canyon Farms. “It feels good as it is nice to be appreciated,” said Furlati, who’s cooked in town since 1988 and today owns the ever-popular trattoria Ca’ Dario at East Victoria and Anacapa streets (opened 1997) and its adjacent pizzeria (opened 2012). “I am lucky to have my own restaurant and am able to help and support causes in a small way.”
Furlati’s first taste of the trade was working alongside his grandmothers while growing up in Italy. “My favorite dish is risotto, as it was the first dish that I learned to cook when I was 8 years old,” said Furlati. But the proud traditionalist also confessed, “The gnocchi I make is different from my grandmother’s as it is much richer, but I don’t think she would mind.”
Over Furlati’s nearly three decades in Santa Barbara, the dining scene has very much evolved. “When I first came here to chef at Pane e Vino, there were very few Italian restaurants — now we have so many choices,” he explained. And those choices will soon expand further, as the Ca’ Dario empire is also growing. “We are excited to be spreading out to open another Ca’ Dario trattoria-pizzeria in Goleta,” Furlati divulged, “so that some of our regular customers don’t have to come in to town.”
Dario Furlati will be honored at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s 3rd Annual Fork & Cork Classic on Sunday, April 10, 3-6 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. See forkandcorkclassic.org.