RUN, don’t walk, to this outstanding authentic Italian restaurant that makes you feel like family from the minute you enter the artfully and tastefully adorned dining room until your last bite of Limoncello Semifreddo.
The Saturday night my family and I dined at Casa Nostra, we arrived at 7:00. There was no wait, no noise factor, and we were seated at a nice table in the corner near some of the beautiful art pieces on view from local artists, and underneath an amazing hand-made chandelier fabricated from a delicate tree branch. Our service was outstanding—attentive and knowledgeable wait staff. Our water glasses and the basket of freshly baked bread were never empty.
The food at Casa Nostra is delicious, comforting, inventive, and healthy featuring Chef Pasquale Bianco’s own recipes. We started with several appetizers: a special, delicate chicken and mushroom croquettes served with baby spinach, tomatoes and an aioli dipping sauce; torta di risotto, baked Arborio rice cake with fresh local wild mushrooms in truffle cream sauce (sublime!); and eggplant rotondini, a beautifully presented and tasty round layer of eggplant, ground pork, quinoa, garlic, basil, and pecorino cheese. Entrees: I had the linguine frutti di mare, which was hands down the best seafood pasta I’ve ever had!—a very generous portion of fresh and perfectly cooked mussels, clams, prawns, salmon, and gorgeous calamari, served in a very light white wine sauce with a pinch of red pepper flake and basil on a bed of al dente housemade linguine. The colors, flavors, and textures of this dish were perfectly balanced—a visual and culinary delight. My husband opted for the special fish of the day: a sea bass fillet served in a light broth of tomatoes, fennel, and fresh herbs with three slices of crostini. Again, the sea bass was cooked to perfection and the combination of flavors took us right back to the Italian coast. Our daughter selected the Chicken Bocconcini, a new dish on the menu. The chicken was cooked in a red wine, garlic, and tomato sauce seasoned lightly with Indian spices and fresh wild, local mushrooms. It was a unique blend of flavors that worked well together, served along with piped mashed potatoes and green beans sautéed with more mushrooms. We finished our memorable meal by sharing the Limoncello Semifreddo. Do yourself a favor and order this for dessert even if you couldn’t eat another bite. It is so awesome!! Semifreddo gelato served with limoncello sauce in a flute garnished with strawberry slices and drizzles of chocolate.
We felt the pricing at Casa Nostra was very reasonable for the portion size and quality of the food. The wines by the glass (both Italian and local Santa Cruz vintners) were also reasonably priced. A nice selection of hot tea is available (which our daughter enjoyed), as well as beer, espresso drinks, and soft drinks.
We heard that the restaurant can be noisy with a wait on Friday and Saturday nights, but that was not our experience. The ambiance was lively and friendly. Families with children, couples, and groups of friends filled the room. I strongly recommend this Italian dining experience to anyone yearning for the comforts, flavors, and hospitality of Italy.