Watsonville’s Maricruz Santillan has been by Ella King’s side for two decades. She had worked her way up to manager at Café Ella, and when King opened Ella’s at the Airport in 2015, Santillan followed; she began as a prep cook and became manager, again, two years ago.
You wouldn’t think that aviation aesthetic pairs well with Ella’s take on modern Italian cuisine, but it seems to work very well. Santillan attributes the success to the locally sourced ingredients and housemade food—everything from the ranch dressing to the tomato sauce is made from scratch. Some of the menu standouts: wood-fired pizza, Italian sausage ravioli, the organic roasted seasonal veggies and “The Watson,” a Teres major beef cut with red wine demi mushroom glace. The desserts—including a flourless chocolate torte (“Chocolate Love”) and a butter cookie with lemon curd and mascarpone cheese sweet cream (“Lemon Dream”)—deliver the same kind of wow factor.
Ella’s is open 11:30am-8pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Santillan explained why an airport terminal is the location to enjoy Ella’s cuisine.
What makes Ella’s setting unique?
MARICRUZ SANTILLAN: When you are here enjoying your lunch or dinner, you get to enjoy the view of the planes taking off and landing. Guests often remark that they don’t get this experience anywhere else. When families come and eat, the kids are especially entertained by the planes and are really fascinated, which makes for a memorable experience for all our guests. People may not realize, but our airport is very busy; planes are constantly arriving and departing.
What happens on the second Saturday of every month?
The Watsonville Airport Association hosts a historical artifact display featuring old aircrafts, World War II-era weapons and uniforms, parachutes and historical pictures. Also, veterans come and share their stories. A lot of people don’t know this, but the Watsonville Airport has been around since World War II and was involved in the war effort. It’s really cool to get a sense of the history here at the airport.
Ella’s At The Airport, 100 Aviation Way, Watsonville. 831-728-3282. ellasinwatsonville.com.