.The Fate of Downtown Santa Cruz’s Parklet Dining

Plus, Bookie’s ‘inauthentic Detroit-style’ pizza and Gabriella’s springtime menu.

The parklet was an al fresco answer to a restaurateur’s prayers during the pandemic. Who doesn’t like to sidewalk-cafe their dining, out in the pleasant weather (yes, we are lucky that this isn’t Buffalo), chatting with fellow diners away from the Covid-prohibited indoor scene. Lupelo and Hula’s pioneered the happy new dining turf, but then the shutdown triggered many new innovations in outdoor seating that helped bring folks downtown and keep many businesses, well, in business. So, now that things have opened up, what’s to become of the wildly popular seating areas, with the weather-proofing accessories of tents (Gabriella), booths (Bantam) and heaters (Tramonti)?

“The temporary outdoor dining program is scheduled to end on December 31,” Rebecca Unitt of Santa Cruz’s Economic Development Office told me. But not to worry. “We’re also working on a citywide permanent parklet program,” she explained. By mid-summer, Unitt expects to have plans finalized for several design models eateries can choose from.

“We’re working with landscape architects,” she explained. “We wanted to take the burden off businesses.”

And while those designs won’t be mandatory, “we will streamline the whole process if businesses adopt one of the models,” she says. Unitt acknowledged that “some parklets do take up on street parking,” and says the city will be working with businesses on rearranging or shrinking down some of the current installations. “We understand the value of these spaces to restaurants, and will work to create vibrant environments for visitors and residents alike.”

Like so many downtown diners, I look forward to creative al fresco dining situations to continue on and on and on. Unitt’s office appears willing to collaborate on continuing the parklets in win-win style.

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Parker Does Pizza

Reinventing himself is one of chef Todd Parker’s specialties. The former Manresa and Bad Animal cuisinartist just last week joined forces with GM/sous chef Meghan O’Connell to transform the kitchen of Sante Adairius into a pizza parlor worthy of the house craft brews. Bookie’s is the name, and “inauthentic Detroit-style” pizza’s the game. The new house pizzas take their cue from Motown’s thick-crust, seasonal square format. But the toppings will set these pizzas apart. For one thing, organic flour. Add to that unique sauces and toppings sourced locally, Fogline Farms chicken, artichokes and dairy-free feta. Pizzas will run $21-$24, with starters ($10-$16) like chicken wings and sourdough pretzels, and a few special salads. It all started as an underground project; the pizzas would pop up at the craft brewery to the delight of regulars. Well, it got so popular that Parker decided to pivot from the global fusion offerings he was famous for, and dial in to a single specialty with a multitude of incarnations. Consider a pizza with mushrooms, dandelions and preserved lemon. Or a vegan pie with carrot harissa, black lime, mint and artichoke. I’m going to have to be sold on that thick crust idea, but then again since this is Todd Parker cooking, that crust is going to be fantastic. Bookie’s Pizza is located inside Sante Adairius Rustic Ales at 1315 Water St., Santa Cruz. Open Sun-Thurs noon-9pm, til 10pm on weekends. bookiespizza.com.

Tidbits

Had a great brunch last week at Gabriella and this charming dinner house continues to offer original artwork as an appetizer to every meal. The spring dinner menu has got fresh local halibut with my favorite chimichurri sauce. Fat asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and brie—a life-changing appetizer, especially with a new vermentino from Mendocino (sounds like something Astrud Gilberto would sing) and a Crianza tempranillo from Spain. Outdoors or in, you’ll be charmed.

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