Lunch with Louie at Via Maestra 42
Santa Barbara food reviews with Louie the pessimist food critic
Oct 5, 10:12 PM (PT)
The next time you need to go to the San Roque post office to mail a letter to your lover, or maybe an affirmative response to the many requests you have received over the last 25 years, and, Yes! Yes! you have finally decided to go to that high school reunion you have been avoiding year after year because of the fear of seeing the love of your life once more, and after twenty five years you still ache for her, and just the thought of dancing with her one more time makes you feel like ten thousand ants are walking all over you. Well, when you hold a letter like that in your hands, and you see it go down the chute and you are bursting with passion, love and anticipation, that’s when you should do yourself a favor and, after watching that letter on its way to destiny, only then, after wondering if Mary Sue will be able to put her arms around your waist now that you are 30 pounds heavier,
then, when you are emotionally drenched and fulfilled, you should go next door to Via Maestra 42 and treat yourself to one of the best Italian lunches this town has to offer. And tell them Louie sent you.
Via Maestra 42 is actually the address of the owner’s family home in Italy. What a good boy, what a sensitive boy, and if you meet him you would agree with me. Renato started this restaurant in the year 2000, with a lot of dreams and a basic principle - to serve authentic Italian food, without any gimmicks. Just honest, well-prepared food made with healthy and fresh ingredients.
The place is not pretentious. The ambiance is cozy, warm and very homey. There is a refrigerated deli case chock full of goodies that you can order as your lunch or as a side order with your main dish. They have many salads, pastas and sandwiches that you can order or, if you feel like improvising, the case offers such treats as a gorgeous octopus and calamari salad, some stunning Sicilian olives, and a particularly attractive tuna salad with butterbeans. Ah, butterbeans - just luscious by themselves or with a little olive oil and a touch of lemon!
We ordered a dish of linguini with Portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and chicken, that came with a salad of mixed greens - fresh and crisp and crowned with slivers of Reggiano cheese - like garlands on a Christmas tree. I ordered my all time favorite, knowing I was not going to be disappointed. I asked for a prosciutto sandwich on a baguette with nothing on it. You don’t tamper with prosciutto’s flavor by mixing it with other ingredients like cheese, tomatoes, lettuce etc. And how wonderful the prosciutto was! Thin slivers of real Parma prosciutto, this being the San Danielle brand, one of the best, not too salty or fatty, just pure good and wonderful flavor complemented by a baguette of great texture and freshness.
The linguini was made fresh to order and as such, just al dente and a treat by itself. The chicken was tender and in the right amount, and the mushrooms, tasty and firm. A wonderful dish presented in the right way without being overpowering in its taste or in its size.
Believe it or not, I was in kind of an eating frenzy. So, why not? Let’s eat some more! How about some raviolis filled with ricotta and spinach, with an angelic sauce of lemons and a bit of cream - just heavenly. Wonderful, light pillows that disappeared in your mouth in just a wishful breath. If you ever go for dinner please don’t miss the linguini with shrimp in a saffron sauce. Just sublime.
Their desserts and Italian gelatos are imported from Italy. They are made by Bindi of Milan, who has been making tasty treats since 1946. No matter how hard you try, it’s really hard to find fault in this place - it’s a triumph. Don’t miss it.
After lunch, I went home, and after a well-deserved nap, came back at about 3:45 for a lemon gelato. It was served to me in a stainless steel champagne dish, by the owner himself - a charming and unassuming gentleman who basically proved to me why this place is so successful and consistently excellent. He cares.
I sat on the little patio in front of the restaurant, savoring my gelato and watching people go by. Some of them were mailing their love letters all over this sometimes-wonderful world of ours. I was full, somewhat groggy, but very happy. Once again, don’t miss it; you will be pleased.
They even have a social hour every Tuesday from 5:30 to 7 pm. You can stop by and practice your Italian in an informal and casual way, make some friends and use your Italian conversational talents to make some new acquaintances.