Chef Massimo Falsini of Caruso’s | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Santa Barbara County added a third Michelin Star awardee to its ranks this week, when Caruso’s at the Rosewood Miramar in Montecito was honored with the culinary world’s most esteemed designation. Bestowed upon a very excited Chef Massimo Falsini during a presentation in Los Angeles on Monday night, the star puts Caruso’s on par with Bell’s in Los Alamos and Sushi by Scratch: Montecito, both of which won their Michelin stars in 2021.

“Thank you! We worked so hard!” Falsini exclaimed after donning his honorary white chef’s coat and reaching the Michelin Star stage at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Monday, bringing passionate emotion to an otherwise staged affair. “I love my team. They worked so hard. Thank you so much!” (Read our 2019 feature about the restaurant here.)

Caruso’s also picked up a Green Star, which designates sustainable operations. The Central Coast added one more awardee as well: The Restaurant at Justin — located in the remote western hills of Paso Robles wine country aside an inn and vineyards — won both the Michelin Star and Green Star as well. The Green Star operations at both restaurants are described in detail here, and this is the list of all the 2022 awardees.  

“The culinary industry is driven by passion, artistry, and creativity with a constant strive for perfection,” said Justin’s Chef Rachel Haggstrom in a press release. “I love watching each day as ingredients cultivate within the garden, steps away from The Restaurant, to then translate to the plate, and finally how that dish not only nourishes the person, but their soul.” She called being awarded for something that she loves to do as “a dream come true, and simply surreal.”

Justin’s Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom | Credit: Courtesy

About The Restaurant at Justin, the Michelin Guide wrote, “This restaurant champions local product, sourced nearby and from the property’s own 150-tree orchard, edible flower fields, vegetable and herb gardens, and apiary. Imagine dishes like asparagus with a soft quail egg, blood orange, and duck prosciutto, or artichoke tortellini with truffle and peas.” 

About Caruso’s, they wrote, “The seasonal prix-fixe takes center stage along with a focus on regional products. Santa Barbara bluefin tartare, garnished with thinly sliced Taggiasca olives and dots of tofu aioli along with a creamy almond granita, takes a familiar ingredient and transforms it into something original.”

Falsini was still excited on Tuesday morning when he spoke to the Independent, even after a night out celebrating in L.A. 

“Arriving at the star is a lifetime achievement for a chef, but it only happens with the support of the team,” said Falsini, who attended the ceremony with Caruso’s Chef de Cuisine Shibani Mone. “We did it together in the kitchen, dish by dish. We were jumping, but we really missed the team. We wanted to bring them all together on that stage.”

Falsini won a Michelin Star many years ago as a chef in Italy, but this one is far more meaningful. “I am in love with California and with Santa Barbara, and the connection we have to the ocean and our farmers and fishermen and ranchers that help us every day,” he said. “Sometimes there’s not enough space on the plate to put all the beautiful ingredients.”

He was even happier to win the Green Star. “That’s recognition of our efforts we make to support the community,” said Falsini. “This is not just the achievement of a chef. It’s the achievement of a city. We are slowly transforming Santa Barbara. We are putting it on the gastronomic map and becoming an international city. That’s so important for us to really make this place that we love shine.”

Going forward, Falsini said that his team will try to do even better. “We are never gonna stop,” he said. “The game is on. It’s really hard to arrive at this level, but it’s also hard to maintain this level. Consistency is the key.”

Monday’s news comes after an earlier report that a number of Central Coast restaurants were added to the Michelin Guide’s “New” list. Of that list, only Peasant’s Feast was picked up as a “Bib Gourmand” for 2022. 

See the entire Michelin Guide at

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