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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Spreading Their Wings: Luca and Tina Rubino at La Bruschetta.

Felton Flavors

Luca Rubino's new La Bruschetta fills the mountains with a luscious Mediterranean menu

By Janet Blaser

YOU KNOW, we really are very lucky to live here. So often, I come across extremely talented chefs who have traveled around the world and end up settling here, drawn by the natural abundance of quality ingredients from land and sea, a beautiful environment and a warm and welcoming community. That leaves us with an up-close-and-personal culinary extravaganza that, I think, is pretty darned special.

The latest player on this field is Luca Rubino, whose La Bruschetta restaurant just outside of Felton has been causing quite a stir for the past few months. Sicilian by birth, Rubino has created a luscious menu of traditional Mediterranean dishes using mostly organic ingredients--not only produce and free-range eggs and poultry, but also flours, grains and dairy products. Set in the former Moonshadow's, a spacious and now uncluttered building with a big patio and forest setting, La Bruschetta caters to locals with breakfast and lunch, and then appeals to a dinner crowd looking for a destination spot worthy of the trek.

Rubino, who grew up in a family-owned resort, knows what it takes to succeed. First and foremost, the customer must be satisfied. His philosophy is simple: "Whatever you want, I will try to make you happy." Judging by the menu, he's doing a good job: appetizers like Involtini de Melanzana alla Trapanese (thin-sliced eggplant stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and bread crumbs, topped with fresh tomato sauce and Pecorino cheese) and entrees such as his favorite, the Filetto al Basilico (grilled filet mignon with a fresh basil sauce), are interspersed with a wide selection of pasta dishes, many featuring fresh fish in the Southern Italian style. And at $12 to $18 for entrees, prices are more than reasonable. La Bruschetta, at 5447 Highway 9, Felton, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 10am (8am weekends) to 2pm, and then from 5 to 11pm. Live music is featured during Sunday brunch. Call 335.3337 for more information, directions or reservations.

Zooming Zanotto's

Not to be outdone by the big grocery chains and their delis, take-home meals and the like, our own little Zanotto's (proportionately speaking) has responded with a vengeance. For a while now, its deli section has been slowly but surely building up steam, with a sushi chef providing freshly made rolls and nigiri during weekday lunch hours, an ever-more-efficient deli offering a smorgasbord of sandwiches, salads and hot foods, and a butcher counter thats has rivaled the one at Shopper's Corner for years.

Now Zanotto's has added a few more innovations--wine and cheese tastings and a weekly farmers market. Manager Joanne Thompson says the store's recent anniversary celebration included an outdoor farmers market, and it was such a success they decided to continue it as a regular Saturday morning event. Set up outside the store, what you'll find is organic produce from Happy Boy Farms, fresh strawberries from Watsonville and yummy artichokes from Castroville farms, as well as fresh flowers, other seasonal produce and Zanotto's own homemade sausages (mild and hot Italian, chicken pesto or garlic, and turkey). And, as an added incentive, each week there are featured items at lower than usual prices. It happens every Saturday (probably till the end of pumpkin season) from 8am to 3pm at Zanotto's, 700 Front St., in downtown Santa Cruz. Call 423.4994 for details.

Got a word tip and some restaurant news? Email Janet at [email protected]

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From the September 6-13, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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