Eat Like Julia Child in Santa Barbara
By Michele Mahone
Julia Child made Santa Barbara her home later in life. “People just seem friendly and happy here,” the California-born chef and author once said. The menu at Olio e Limone Ristorante is filled with Child’s favorite dishes so you can eat what she ate, sit where she sat, and love what she loved. Pardon me while I pull up a seat.
They had me at “olives.” Upon arrival my server gave me a dish of olives that danced and sang in all of garlic’s glory. The olive splendor doesn’t stop there. As it turns out, the restaurant imports the best tasting olive oil in existence from Italy. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact. I don’t know what they do to make it so magical, but trust me, it is. The restaurant sells it for less than $20 a bottle, and I wasn’t leaving without one.
I’ve never had such a hard time deciding what to order; when they are Julia’s favorites you can’t go wrong. I made my selections and then proceeded to beg and borrow bites from my lunch companions; one bite was stolen while they weren’t looking. I am typically not a fan of risotto, but the risotto al’limone e gamberetti is absolutely delicious. I could have eaten the entire dish but, since I didn’t order it, I felt it inappropriate.
The tagliata di bue con rugola e tortino di patate (sliced beef tenderloin over a thin potato tart with arugula, shaved parmesan, and truffle oil) might be the most flavorful beef I have ever eaten. I, unfortunately, did not order this one either so I begrudgingly handed it back to the rightful owner.
I hit the jackpot by ordering the petti di pollo saltimbocca alla val d’ostana, thinly pounded sliced chicken breast with prosciutto, fontina cheese and Marsala wine.
For dessert we fought over the crostata di pere al caramello, a pear tart with a thin layer of marzipan, warm caramel sauce, and vanilla gelato, and the bauletto di cioccolato e banana, chocolate-banana bread pudding with a warm chocolate ganache center, caramelized bananas, and vanilla gelato. I’d go into detail, but do I really need to?
After sampling the adored recipes of a culinary master I left feeling as though I had had lunch with the lady herself. Julia Child knew food. I could almost hear her saying “This is how it’s supposed to taste.” The atmosphere at Olio E Limone is relaxed and quietly refined. The food is delectable and just this side of decadent. Somewhere she is smiling.
Olio e Limone is located at 11 West Victoria in Santa Barbara. Call (805) 899-2699 for more information.