Dinner at Tramonti is everything that’s wonderful about Italian dining. Vivacious, atmospheric, unpretentious—and above all, delicious. Friends kept telling me about their memorable meals at this Seabright hot spot. I found out why as I and my companion (who spent several years in Rome) fell under the spell of the swift, warm service and rustic outdoor setting.
After his first sip of the house Chianti, and having polished off the first of several oven-roasted prawns wrapped in soppressata, he happily confessed, “It’s like being in Italy.” Well, it was. From the salt-free Italian bread already waiting at our table to the opulent cake and cream dessert, the meal was as authentic as Pavarati. Neither designer Italian nor Italian-American, Tramonti’s menu can be described as whatever the Italian term for “down home” is—the people’s authentic Italian food.
We started with glasses of red wine (generous pours), mine a light berry-and-herb-toned 2017 Nebbiolo from Stefano Farina ($14), and the house Chianti 2019 ($10). A starter of Gamberi alla Diavola—fat oven-roasted prawns enwrapped in soppressata, Parmigiano Reggiano and garlic—offered the signature red pepper kick ($18). Intensely flavorful, it was a dish made to be joined by our simpatico red wine, served at the perfect slightly cool temperature. Indoors and out, Tramonti was filling up with families, foursomes and date night couples, all in good spirits, which got even better as dinners progressed.
Our entrees arrived precisely as we finished the last prawn. Our waiter told us, “This is what the Roman soldiers ate,” as he presented the Pollo alla Romana ($30). Lucky soldiers. Sitting in the center of a large platter was half a free-range chicken that had been baked in the brick oven and then simmered into complete tenderness in a very light tomato sauce/broth along with potatoes, red bell peppers and onions, and dusted with fresh chopped parsley. The country-style flavors were simple and compelling. An order of Tortelloni (cappellacci) ($27) featured loosely hand-shaped pasta stuffed with succulent, slow braised beef short ribs. Sauteed in butter and whole sage leaves, each plump pasta was dusted with Parmigiano Reggiano and glistened seductively in the golden sunset light streaming across the table. Throughout dinner, our outstanding waiter Andrea—a native Italian, as are the Tramonti founders—explained the food and wine, offered suggestions and kept an eye on every table. So did his two associates. Taking conspicuous pleasure in his work, Andrea helped orchestrate a meal that became much more than just dinner. Just like our dining experiences in Italy.
And finally, from the hand of Tramonti’s sous chef Alessio Casagrande came a dessert to delight the child in us. Two layers of barely sweet chocolate cake had been thickly frosted with chilled rum-spiked pastry cream and topped with more pastry cream, bits of sweet crunchy meringue and raspberries, blueberries and a fat strawberry ($12). It was a fantasy that proved just a bit more than we could finish—but so much fun. My friends were right to praise Tramonti’s dinners. Grazie tutti! Open Monday-Friday, noon-3pm and 4-9pm; Saturday-Sunday, noon-9pm. 528 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. tramontisantacruz.com.
Wine in the Redwoods
Make reservations for May 22 to enjoy complex reds and elegant whites of the Santa Cruz Mountains paired with the farm-to-table cuisine of chef Brad Briske. A 90-minute wine reception starts at 4pm; a four-course dinner at 5:30pm. Tickets are $155; $132 for SCM wine club members. The wine dinner featuring vintages from various Santa Cruz Mountain labels will be held at Big Basin Vineyards’ Estate Vineyard & Winery, 830 Memory Lane, Boulder Creek.