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“breaking bottles” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Ristorante Avanti

Ristorante Avanti
1917 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
+1 831-427-0135
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Ranked #46 of 287 Restaurants in Santa Cruz
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Doing business, Scenic view, Local cuisine, Special occasions, Romantic, Entertaining clients
Dining options: Dinner, Reservations
Description: Fine dining for twenty five years as the farm to table restaurant for Santa Cruz county. We buy the produce, seafood and animals from the people who grew them, caught them or raised them. Local cuisine with a European bent. The finest wines from Europe with local wines in that tradition. We have a full bar and patio seating. We are on Highway One open for lunch and dinner. Reservations strongly encouraged.
Santa Cruz, California
14 reviews 14 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“breaking bottles”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 11, 2012

Authentic Italian food, complete with native chef throwing a tantrum and breaking wine bottles in the kitchen, which afforded us multiple glasses of good free wine. Decor is negligible, but atmosphere is highly entertaining.

Visited June 2012
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103 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Santa Cruz, California
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
5 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Longing for old-world charm, hospitality, and generosity of the old location”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 8, 2012

On a recent Friday night, my husband and I headed out to the new location for Ristorante Avanti on Mission Blvd. on the west side of Santa Cruz. We had enjoyed dining at their old location many times over the years. We didn't have a reservation, and expected somewhat of a wait, but thought we'd relax with a glass of wine at the bar. When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly hostess, who seemed so relaxed in the face of a dozen or so hungry waiting guests. We were told that it would be a 20 minute wait. The hostess took our wine order--2 glasses of a delightfully refreshing 2011 Henri Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc Val du Loire, France for $8 a glass, a perfect aperitif.

The huge serpentine bar was packed with diners. When we moved towards the bar to sit down, we were told that we couldn't sit there; the seats were reserved for diners only. So we stood, hovering near the bar trying to stay out of the way of servers flying by with full plates of food. There wasn't anywhere else to sit inside while we waited. Oh well, it was only going to be 20 minutes, and we were enjoying our wine and taking in the scene.

Throughout the new restaurant, a remodel of the site previously occupied by Hawg's Bar and Grill, custom stone work, dark-stained pine, and granite flooring give the restaurant a modern look. We were missing the warmth that their old-world pottery collection gave to their previous dining room. The new place is very, very noisy. Granted, the place was packed on a Friday night, but even standing next to my husband, we had trouble hearing each other.

The new Avanti has a full bar, offering cocktails as well as beer and wine and a small selection of non-alcoholic beverages. The wines-by-the-glass menu has a good selection of many varietals, but is heavy on French and Italian wines; only one local Santa Cruz wine was available by the glass, a Beauregard Pinot Noir. With dozens of fine vineyards and wineries of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, I would have liked to have seen more local wines by the glass.

After about 1/2 hour, we checked in with the hostess. Still no table available. We were at that point where you are so hungry you are watching everyone else eat, dining vicariously through them. Eventually, a spot for one opened up on the small bench next to the hostess stand. We shared this small space with another woman. If they are not going to let people who are waiting sit at their bar, they really need to provide more of a waiting area. It would have been nice to be able to order some appetizers while we were waiting, too.

At last, a full hour and 15 minutes later (!), the hostess called our name. She didn't acknowledge our delayed wait nor did she apologize for it. Had she told us up front that it would be an hour plus, instead of the totally underestimated 20 minutes, we would have been more prepared. We did consider leaving at one point, but decided to wait it out.

Once seated, the service was very efficient and very good. Our server greeted us and quickly brought the requested water and some French bread with warmed mixed mediterranean olives floating in good olive oil. Shortly after placing our order, our antipasti arrived: a generous portion of pan-fried pardon peppers with shaved manchego cheese slightly melted over them with a light olive oil, salt, and Meyer lemon zest seasoning. So good! We devoured them!

For our first course, my husband had a cup of the summer minestrone ($5), a clear broth with a mixture of summer veggies. Other than the oily melted butter floating on the surface, it was a nice light soup. My starter was the wild arugula salad with beets, avocado, and watercress with a citrus vinaigrette ($9). It was a very small portion for the price. I have had similar salads at Soif, Gabriella Cafe, and Oswald (all great restaurants in Santa Cruz) for the same price that are at least twice the size of this one.

For the main course, I wanted to order the fish special, a wild local salmon, but they were out of that, substituting seabass for the salmon. It was served over a lemon and squash risotto and was delicious. The seabass was pan roasted with a nice crust on the outside and moist on the outside, and the risotto was cooked perfectly, not pasty. However, again, the portion was very small. The fish was a 2" cube, and the risotto was served underneath it more like a pool of sauce than a risotto dish. For $25 I would have liked a more sizable portion. I had a glass of the 2011 Chateau du Rouet Rose Cote de Provence ($8), a dry and delicious rose wine with good fruit that reminded me immediately of pink wines from the Luberon Valley in Provence. My husband ordered the Pappardelle with baked pork meatballs from local Devil's Gulch Ranch. It was delicious, the meatballs well seasoned and the sauce nicely balanced on toothsome wide ribbon noodles. With only 4 quarter sized meatballs, again, the portion could have been larger. He had a glass of 2006 Sperino Uvaggio Costa Della Sesia Rosso, Italy ($9), a classic Italian red that paired perfectly with the pasta.

By the time we finished, it was late, so we passed on dessert. The noise had died down with only half the restaurant still full.

In general, the ambience is not as nice as the previous location, the wait and small portions were a turn-off, and the noise made it difficult to converse with the person sitting right next to you. Longing for the old-world charm, hospitality, and generosity of the old location, we will try Avanti again with a reservation, but we are in no big rush to do so.

  • Visited August 2012
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Cruz, CA
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
4 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Great Food, Phenomenal Desserts”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 14, 2012

This is one of my favorite restaurants in Santa Cruz. The Potato Gnocci is very good and immersed in a delicious sauce. The portions are relatively small, but still were plenty filling for lunch. The desserts were simply to die of - especially the chocolate fondue.

  • Visited July 2012
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Cruz, CA
Senior Contributor
49 reviews 49 reviews
42 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
“why so overrated?”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed August 6, 2012

I am a local, and I have been to this place several times, always at the behest of someone else. I have never been impressed, and I am constantly perplexed by the great reviews it gets. I recently ate lunch there. The spinach salad was tiny. The dressing had a very strange and unpleasant flavor that defies description. The salad consisted of maybe 9 or 10 leaves of spinach, some shaved cheese, some kind of meat I think (prosciutto, maybe?) and half of a hard boiled egg which was just thrown on the plate. It wasn't even hard boiled as the yoke was somewhat viscous. The presentation was not even remotely attractive. The soup - minestrone - tasted for all the world like warm water with a few vegetables thrown in. Virtually flavorless. The service, while friendly, was not good. The waitress repeatedly brought us items intended for another table. If you are looking for interesting, higher end Italian food, try La Posta, which is really excellent.

  • Visited August 2012
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Cruz, California
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“Nice, but . . .”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed July 6, 2012

We were treated poorly by the owner who wanted us to hurry up and leave the table, although we were not quite finished our multi-course meal and drinks. We were well-dressed, well-behaved, and enjoying ourselves until she asked us twice if we were ready to pay, yet. We were still eating. Granted, the place was full, however when the bill is in the hundreds we should be able to finish our desert.

Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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