.Benvenuto!

New to town, Old World flavors

One of the first customers to try the cuisine at the newly opened Rustico Italian Street Food was Thomas DeSurra, who was so wowed that he asked to work there and started the next day as a manager. In the industry since age 16, DeSurra spent most of his early career in a back-of-house capacity before transitioning to the front-of-house, rounding out his résumé.

He says Rustico’s ambiance is warm, cozy and “takes you back to Rome,” set off by a prominently red and white color scheme with green accents. He begins the menu’s tour with the arancini, a super cheesy rice ball made with risotto that has an “Instagram-worthy cheese pull.” The sandwiches on handmade fresh-baked focaccia bread are another standout.

The pizzas are the flagship menu item, rectangular Roman-style with light and fluffy crust against crispy edges. Favorite flavors are the Calabrese with four-hour caramelized onions, thin sliced potatoes and ’Nduja (a savory/spicy Italian sausage), the namesake Rustico with tomato, garlic and basil, and the Don Sergio with a mozzarella/parmesan base, garlic, thyme and balsamic-cooked cremini and porcini mushrooms.

How has business been so far?

THOMAS DESURRA: The downtown community has been super welcoming and very patient with helping us get off the ground. We’ve been getting busier every single week and really love the word of mouth that’s been praising our virtues and welcoming a new take on Italian food in our town. We look forward to continuing to serve great food to an incredible community and becoming a bigger part of Santa Cruz dining culture.

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How do you compare back-of-house and front-of-house work?

I love the creativity that comes with creating dishes and menus, and love the teamwork of a well-operated kitchen and that flow of putting out great dishes as a collaborative effort. What I love about FOH is seeing people’s reactions and creating good experiences for people. Working in food service has been incredibly gratifying for me, and experiencing both sides of restaurant work has given me a unique perspective.

1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tuesday-Sunday, noon-2pm and 4-9pm. 831-226-2227.

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