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[whitespace] Severino's
Chad Pilster

Smiles All Around: The comfortable digs at Severino's attract patrons in search of a convivial dining experience.

The attractive resort setting at Severino's makes it a pleasant meeting place

By Christina Waters

A CONVENIENT location and a big menu make Severino's a handy spot to meet for dinner. That's why we chose it last week for a farewell dinner celebrating Katya's latest Icelandic video assignment. There was nothing icy, however, about the ambiance of our big booth overlooking Severino's tropical-plant landscaping. A basket of excellent francese was brought, along with those little foil-wrapped pats of butter. From a listing of local wines by the glass Jack chose a 1996 Bargetto Merlot ($6), while Katya and I opted for a beautifully structured Trout Gulch Vineyards 1996 Pinot Noir ($7.50).

After a long wait, our wines arrived. Our waiter eventually returned to tell us about a few evening specials, including a fresh sea bass that caught Katya's eye. I decided to try the prime rib special ($15.95), while Jack ordered the lamb shish kabob ($12.95).

After lengthy conversation we realized that our salmon appetizer had failed to arrive. The second basket of bread we asked for also remained absent. At the booth behind us, a waitress greeted some new guests and promptly began explaining the nightly specials in tempting detail. Had we simply sat in another booth, we might have had swifter, more informed service.

When our waiter finally returned, he brought our appetizer as well as soups and Katya's salad. Arriving all at once, the dishes crowded the table and marred the pacing of the meal.

A major portion of smoked salmon ($7.95) arrived with an arsenal of mini-bagels, a few canned black olives and a container of cream cheese--a great shared appetizer with friends meeting for cocktails, we all agreed. Katya's green salad was nicely made, full of fresh lettuces and a vinaigrette laced with creamy blue cheese. The orange soup du jour offered white beans, bits of ham and carrot, and enough salt to make us feel like Brigham Young getting acquainted with Utah.

As we waited for our entrees, other staffers stopped by to reassure us that our dinners would actually arrive sometime that evening. And they did.

My prime rib was good--a thick slab of rare, juicy and flavorful roast beef, sided with a freshly baked potato and a colorful sauté of seasonal veggies. I had new respect for a dish that I'd usually considered "wedding food," and the vegetables were excellent. Even if the service was spotty, the kitchen knew how to cook.

Jack's shish kabob was tasty. Nicely charcoal-broiled on a skewer, it featured delicious chunks of lamb intertwined with onions and bell peppers. Only an overly oily orange sauce--which could easily be ignored--was questionable. Saucing turned out to be a problem for Katya's sea bass too, the poor white filet all but lost under its red bell pepper puree and an avalanche of cilantro pesto, both squiggled on with abandon. That could just be scraped off, it's true, but the watery lake of juice filling the bottom of the plate wasn't attractive.

From a dessert list of standards--cheesecake, ice creams, chocolate items--we chose an order of homemade apple pie with ice cream ($4.50), hoping that the homemade aspect would offer redemption. The pie was fine though not distinctive. The accompanying ice cream, however, was disappointing. Ice milk, I surmised, struggling to locate any creaminess. The accompanying scoop of whipped cream tasted like it came from a tub or can.

Despite the shortcomings, it's obvious that someone in the kitchen at Severino's is good enough to overcome the uneven service. Fine-tuning is in order to allow the restaurant's strengths to emerge


Severino's
Address: Inside Seacliff Inn at 7500 Old Dominion Court, Aptos
Phone: 831/688-8987
Hours: Open daily for breakfast and lunch 7am-2pm (open 6:30am on weekdays) and for dinner 5-9pm (until 10pm Fri.-Sat.)
Ambiance: ** Comfortable split-level dining areas adjoin a spacious bar with views of garden courtyard.
Service: * 1/2 Inconsistent, as though not all staffers are equally trained.
Cuisine: ** Some dishes show care and skill in sensitivity to ingredients; sauces can be overwhelming.
Overall: Severino's holds up its end of the please-everyone mission of a motel restaurant but needs to pay more attention to management and training.

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From the August 25-September 1, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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