RISTORANTE AL MARE
ITALIAN CUISINE COMES TO THE SANTA MONICA PIER
Natives and locals of Los Angeles are all too familiar with the famed Santa Monica Pier. It’s an iconic landmark. I’ve been running on it for years during my weekend beach runs, but stopping and actually dining on the pier is a different matter, until now. Thanks to a brand new restaurant and exciting renovations to other favorites, there are some really great options on the pier these days besides simple tourist fare.
The new Ristorante Al Mare is a stunning three-story restaurant serving up fine Italian cuisine with a fantastic ocean view. With its rooftop deck sporting a full bar, second floor balcony terraces, private dining room, and first floor exterior decks overlooking the Santa Monica Pier boardwalk and beach, it’s eye candy galore at every level.
From the folks at La Piazza at The Grove, Ristorante Al Mare holds a special place in the hearts of co-owners Paolo Simeone and Franco Sorgi who fought for nearly five years to complete the impressive build-out.
“We have kids and have brought our kids to the Pier for years because it’s a place we love to go,” says co-owner Paolo Simeone. “Unfortunately, the Pier isn’t known for healthy fresh food—so when the opportunity came along we took it. We are excited to bring this kind of restaurant to Santa Monica locals and tourists alike because we think it is what the Pier has been lacking.”
Chef Giacomo Pettinari, also an Italian transplant, cooks by his mother’s motto: “Keep the flavor real and authentic.” The menu includes salads, appetizers, handmade pasta and pizzas, fish and meat. The food is light, healthy and almost all prepared in house, from the butter to the desserts.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with an intense Champagne Cocktail followed by a sweet and pleasant Washington Apple cocktail.
Ristorante Al Mare makes its own Homemade Butter made with local milk from Organic Pastures in Fresno. It is served with rock salt and grilled ciabatta bread. Nice touch, but personally, I found it a tad too salty.
The Prosciutto e Burrata features 24-month-aged Parma Prosciutto served with fresh Burrata Cheese and Bruschetta. It’s a great starter item to share.
The Caesar Salad, with chopped Romaine, parmesan, house butter croutons and Caesar dressing, was solid. I’m a Caesar guy and tend to hold my favorite salad to pretty high standards, but this was one was very delightful.
The Capricciosa Pizza, prepared with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, black olives, and artichokes, was extremely pleasing. This bad boy is a meal in itself or another great dish to share among friends and family. I found most of the cocktail options a little too sweet for my taste so I decided to try out the impressive wine selection and paired the pizza with a nice White Zinfandel.
Looking for a pasta dish, I had to try the Chitarrine Nere ai Frutti di Mare, otherwise known as House Squid Ink Spaghetti with calamari, shrimp, mussels, clams and spicy marinara. Now this is a crowd pleaser—so flavorful. This dish actually paired well with a nice, chilled Reisling.
If you want a meatier entrée dish, the Costine Brasate—oven braised beef short ribs, served with green peas puree and garlic-thyme sautéed vegetables—is a delicious option. Hearty, filling and tasty, it paired so lovely with a glass of Barbera.
With not too much room left for dessert, we decided to split the Profiteroles—sweet and savory oven baked pastry puffs. Still rich and decadent, they were a great way to round out the evening.
It’s hard not to have a wonderful meal dining on first rate Italian food in a charming and elegant setting. With Ristorante Al Mare, there’s definitely a new and exciting reason to venture out to the Santa Monica Pier. Personally, I can’t wait to go back and try out the Branzino (a personal favorite) and enjoy Happy Hour taking in a lovely SoCal sunset.
Ristorante Al Mare is located at 250 Santa Monica Pier. Hours: Sunday – Thursday from 11:30am to 9:30pm; Friday – Saturday from 11:30am to 10:30pm. Happy Hour is from 4:30pm to 7:30pm daily. Call 310-458-4448.
By: Jose Martinez.
Some photography courtesy of: Ristorante Al Mare