Everything on the Mentone menu pops with flavor and color—nothing tentative or subdued.
The menu is concentrated, which means that ordering is easy. Whatever jumps out at you is the right choice. Everything is handcrafted, from the complex Wagyu bresaola to a sculptural platter of fresh asparagus supercharged with flavors of anchovy, Meyer lemon, the unexpected tang of tarragon and Parmesan. Plenty of custom salumes. The pizzas from Mentone’s wood-fired Mugnaini oven are gossamer platforms for superstar toppings. A few pastas for sharing. One irresistible dessert, a supernatural housemade creamy gelato. Everyone orders it, everyone sighs. Intelligent cocktails, wines from Italy, France and California, and an interior at once chic and relaxing.
Mentone is a hit, and after a year’s wait for the opening of this sleek, industrial modern dining room, David Kinch and his highly skilled staff deserve it. With the first sips of our cocktails, Melody and I knew we were in the right place to celebrate our regional reopening. Make note: There are three house Negronis! But I’m into the spritz concept right now, and the seasonal Don’t Rhub It In called out. A tall glass of pale pinkness, the cocktail offered prosecco with rhubarb syrup and two aperols—sirene aperitivo and cocchi americano ($14) topped with a white lavender flower. Summer in every sip. And perfection to pair with small puffs of local sardines crisp in a lacy batter, Meyer lemon aioli to dip ($9).
But I was just as impressed by my companion’s Southern Cruz ($14), a short glass filled with tequila, galliano, Meyer lemon, pepper and Calabrian oil. A single oversized ice cube kept it all chilled, and a tiny slice of hybrid citrus perfumed every sip. Dynamite. Mentone is the place to try a new cocktail, perhaps at the gorgeous bar where bottles glow like jewels against the tall window.
Our fellow diners occupying a mix of tall central tables, snug booths and facing banquettes all looked good against the ochre walls dotted with vintage photos of Italian and French movie stars. The food is the real decor in this no-fuss upmarket pizzeria. And throughout our meal, the service was expert. No hovering, but eyes were always on all the tables, making sure all was well. General Manager Chris Sullivan stopped at every table making sure patrons were happy. They were.
A gorgeous plate of crimson Wagyu beef bresaola ($18) arrived, followed swiftly by a primi of asparagus perfectly steamed and finished in the broiler ($14). The beautiful green spears glistened in anchovy and olive oil, perfumed by tarragon, and dusted with Parmesan and micro breadcrumbs. Rosettes of avocado cream dotted each spear—an amazing sequence of flavors and textures. The marinated, air-dried and aged-for-three-months beef was the sort of thing that could change lives. Arranged into a crimson rose, each slice was fringed with black pepper and piquant with salt. Alchemy with our cocktails. Then came our pizza, the house bianco with three cheeses and a liberal center of pesto, a sauce close to chef Kinch’s heart ($21). Feather light and piping hot, it renewed the entire idea of pizza.
In tables next to ours, diners were working their way through the entire menu, something I intend to do in the near future. To finish, our perfect espressos were joined by a shared bowl of housemade fior di latte gelato, infused with sea salt and olive oil ($8) This is the dessert you want for your final dish on earth.
Mentone is what you’ve been waiting for. Make your reservations now. Kudos to Kinch and team! Mentone, 174 Aptos Village Way, Aptos. Wednesday-Sunday, 5-9pm. mentonerestaurant.com.