.Bedda Mia Brings Mouthwatering Italian Classics to Downtown Santa Cruz

The recently opened downtownSanta Cruz spot delivers a mix of Genoese and Sicilian regional specialties

We were dazzled by the red walls, the family-run camaraderie, the excited clientele and the food. Yes, I’d say the new Bedda Mia has success written all over its mouth-watering menu.

Congratulations to chef/owner Alessio Casagrande and his partner Leo La Placa (of La Placa Family Bakery in Ben Lomond) for bringing us a ravishing slice of authentic Sicilian cookery. (The name is the Sicilian version of the term of world-famous endearment “bella mia,” or “my beauty.”) Housed in the surprisingly spacious home of the former Pearl of the Ocean, almost at the corner of Water and Branciforte, this charming dining room (and front deck) showcased a parade of flawless dishes last week.

From the generously poured and inexpensive glasses of wine (the list of Italian wines by the glass is long) to the blatantly sexy desserts, our dinner was fantastic (thanks to our friend Stephen for the recommendation). My glass of Montepulciano 2020 D’Abruzzo 2020 offered a balance of tannins and fruit, as did my companion’s glasses of Chianti Classico and Valpolicello ($10 each!), all pairing perfectly with a shared appetizer of luxurious Caponata ($13.50).

Sided by a sprightly salad of infant greens and three golden toasted crostini, the brilliant mix of spiced eggplant, onions, olives, tomatoes, spiced capers and raisins arrived glistening and tangy sweet, the perfect topping for the thin toasts. This caponata is a destination unto itself. We cleaned that platter to a high polish just as our main dishes arrived.

For Stephen, the salmon al forno, a moist slice of wild salmon baked with fresh herbs, and joined by a golden tangle of sweet red and orange peppers, a small bouquet of baby greens plus crisp squares of roast potatoes ($26.50). My bowl of ravioli del doge was perfection ($25.50). Tossed with shreds of speck ham and sprinkled with fresh sage and parmigiano, the pale yellow ravioli were stuffed with purée of shortribs and tossed with butter. I could have eaten this dish for hours and hours. The freshly orchestrated flavors bathed each bit of outstanding, light pasta.

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I’ll go further: I consider housemade ravioli the apotheosis of pasta, and this superstar dish summed up the best of the genre. When you go, pamper yourself with this fantastic creation.

Our third entree last week was an evening special of risotto di mare ($29), a wide bowl of creamy arborio rice surrounding a central opera of salmon, calamari and a plump prawn dotted with fresh mussels and clams in their shells. Olive oil and wine gathered up the seafood’s juices into a light, fresh sauce. A wonderful dish, absolutely right for the warm late summer evening.

No way could we leave without sampling something beautiful and creamy from the tempting dessert case, and so we shared a glass bowl of dreamy tiramisu with three spoons ($10.50). Restrained in presentation, this impeccable creation of mascarpone cream, cake, espresso, rum and chocolate was positively baroque in its layers of flavor. We consumed every trace without shame.

A mere three weeks old, Bedda Mia is already living up to its name. 

Bedda Mia, 736 Water St., Santa Cruz. Daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 4:30-9:30pm. 831-201-4320.

Figs, Glorious Figs

The farmers market stand from Herman Ranches offers the sort of perfect fruit that colonized the book of Genesis. Green figs and Mission figs, ­$6 a basket. That’s it. Just figs. You don’t have to pick through them. Each one is utterly, spellbindingly perfect. Look for them at the Scotts Valley, Live Oak and Downtown Santa Cruz markets before this short season ends.

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