Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cafe Lucio

THE BUZZ ON CAFFE LUCIO

Happy Hour is nightly 5:30ish - 7:30ish

An assortment of specialty drinks $5.00

$1.00 of of wines, beers and well drinks

$7.00 Pizzettas

Cafe Lucio website
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Julie's review


Caffe Lucio is located on the corner of Soquel and Ocean street.  It is has been different restaurants over the years, in fact, I worked at that location when it was Players Pizza, many, many moons ago.   Caffe Lucio is very unassuming from the outside, but inside it is quite charming.  
 
  
It is a perfect happy hour atmosphere with a long, full bar, disco ball and Christmas lights.  The place is loud, fun and has a party atmosphere.

There is parking next to the restaurant on Soquel, but Jo and I parked on Ocean and walked the long way round.  Brenda was already at the bar when we arrived.   


Our wonderful bartender, Amber, was quick to get us water while we looked over the drink specials.  This was the first Santa Cruz Buzz for Brenda, but she quickly got into the swing of things.  She was about take a sip of her drink, but we stopped her with the “wait, we need a picture!”

 
First, the essentials- happy hour SEVEN DAYS a week – 5:30 – 7:30!  What’s not to love?  I like a late happy hour and being located right on Ocean means it’s easy to get to.  There were plenty of seats at the bar, but it was lively.

 
Happy hour is $1.00 off beer, wine and wells.  In addition they have a large $5 happy hour martini menu which all sounded delicious.  Brenda is a vodka drinker and was very impressed with the vodka selection.  I decided to start with a Miss Chocolate – vodka, white and dark Crème de Cacao with cream.  It is beautiful cocktail in a chocolate swirled glass.  Sweet and delicious.  Brenda started with a Bellini – Salmon Creek Sparkling and Peach.  It was very refreshing.  Jo decided to start with red wine or “Jesus Juice” as she described it.
We got right down to the business of ordering food.  

 
For Happy Hour they have a variety of $7 pizzettas and fried calamari.  Brenda ordered the fried calamari, Jo the Rustica pizzetta – Italian sausage and arugula and I ordered the Quattro Stagtoni (which means four seasons in Italian) – Olives, Mushrooms, Ham and Artichoke. 

Amber was happy to tell us about Lucio Fanni and his colorful history.  He is a wild character born in Sardinia and raised in Milan.  He bears a striking resemblance to a crazed Albert Einstein. He moved from Italy to San Francisco and opened a restaurant there.   He came fishing in Capitola, caught a big fish and decided it was the place to be.  

He opened the restaurant Al Dente in Capitola Village and was known for being a wild character – a little too wild for the village.  He moved to a Seabright location next to Bradys until 2006.   He opened Caffe Lucio on Ocean in 2007 and has been there ever since.

Amber is a great bartender.  She loves her job and loves working with Lucio.  There is a passion about working here that makes it a unique experience.  

 
We gave her one of our cards, told her how we would be rating their happy hour with our five shot glass rating system.  We asked if we could get a photo with Lucio and she took him our card. 

When most owners or managers get our card they head straight over, wanting to make a good impression and that they get a good review.  It didn’t faze Lucio in the least, however.  He was busy training new chefs, going to greet customers and petting someone’s dog.  Yes, Caffe Lucio is pet friendly with a lovely dining patio.



Lucio has a loyal fan base with regular customers, who keep coming back for more, partly for Lucio’s magnetic personality, partly for the atmosphere and food and a great bartender like Amber.

Lucio considers the restaurant his home, an extension of himself, where he can do as he pleases and have a good time.  He wants customers to have a good time.  If they don’t enjoy his antics- running around shouting and being his boisterous Italian self, then they can go someplace else.  There are enough loyal regulars that love Lucio to keep the place hopping.

 
Now it was time to try a well bloody mary.  It came in a nice tall glass and had just the right amount of spiciness.  Brenda tried the Bourbon Ball – bourbon and hazelnut liquor with a chocolate rim.  It looked like the Miss Chocolate, but I liked bourbon ball better.  Jo tried the Gintastic – gin, cucumber, lime and soda.  We decided it was too light for a winter drink, but Amber told us they are very popular in the summer since they are so refreshing.




By now the food had arrived.  The portions were very generous.  The calamari came with cocktail and tartar sauce and was crispy fried.  Josephine said it was the best calamari she has had in a long time and she is quite the calamari critic.  She also has her opinions about pizzas being from upstate New York, but she was quite pleased with her pizzette.  The pizzettes were large – we could have easily split one between the two of us.  Mine had a generous serving of ham and olives and Amber poured on the parmesan for me.

 
At this point it was a gentleman’s 50th birthday in the corner and Amber cranked up the house birthday song and everyone sang.  The disco ball was going and the place was rocking.  Amber put on, Queen’s “We are the Champions” followed by a little Michael Jackson and I was won over. She said they had a ton of people coming in during the World Series.

By this time we had polished off the calamari and were working on the pizzettes.  There was so much food, that we ended up taking pizza home in doggie baggies.  That’s a first for a happy hour!

Amber told us next on the agenda was the song “What the Fox Says” by Ylvis.  We look to the kitchen and all of the cooks and Lucio had donned fox head masks and were dancing around the open kitchen.  I knew right then and there, this is my kinda place.  There may have been some fog from the fog machine, my memory is a bit foggy, but the disco ball was spinning and we were officially have a good time.

video

 
At this point we noticed a sign saying there was also a Mama Mia on the $5 drink menu.  When we asked Amber about it, she said that she had actually created the drink after her honeymoon in Hawaii – it has vodka, guava and Prosecco.  She gave us complimentary drinks – (she understands our motto) and they were marvelous and refreshing.  We all loved it.  It was my favorite drink of the night.

Lucio had finally finished with the birthday boy, the doggie and his trainees and came to talk with us.  “This is my house! If you no lika my house, then fuck you!   We have a good time here.”  I had to agree with him.

 
I loved everything about Caffe Lucio – happy hour seven days a week until 7:30, great cocktails, excellent friendly service, good food with generous portions, reasonable prices, an extremely fun eclectic atmosphere, fox masks, dance music and crazy Lucio inviting you into his home.  Bueno Apertivo!!! – this is five shot party house!!!

 
Julie’s Rating: 5 shots
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Jo's review

 
OMG Caffé Lucio is fun fun fun. This friendly authentic Italian restaurant is just a couple of blocks from downtown Santa Cruz. I could tell as soon as I walked in that this was going to be fun. The place has a nice sized bar with flashing laser type lights and a disco ball light which can really liven up a place if you know what I mean.  Plenty of seating and space for large parties, there was a party of about 10-12 people sitting in the middle of the place when we got there. The kitchen is open so you can watch the chefs at work, and there’s a small patio with heaters for outside dining. 



Caffé Lucio is known for the yummy food and of course the owner Lucio who has been around Santa Cruz for many years.  Lucio can take a bit of getting use to, I remember him when he owned Al Dente in the Seabright area. He is an excellent chef who cares deeply about serving authentic Italian cuisine and he’s not afraid to get a little crazy at times. Of course that’s the fun part. He has this wild gray hair and a full of life personality, speaking Italian most of the time (and I can just imagine what he’s saying), with his arms waving as he moves about the restaurant. He has mellowed some since my last encounter with him, but just some.

 
Julie and I arrive at the same time and our friend Brenda is waiting for us at the bar. We quickly dive right in to the menu and start drilling the bartender Amber about the happy hour deals.  So they have happy hour every day (always a plus) from 5:30 to 7-7:30ish. $5 specialty drinks, $1 off beers, well drinks, and most wines, and $7 personal Pizzettas. 




With so many specialty drinks to choose from we end up getting a Bellini, sparkling wine and peach liquor, a Miss Chocolate, Vodka white & dark crème de cacao and crème, and a Gintastic, Gin, lavender, cucumber lime and soda. Along with the drinks we order up some fried calamari, and 2 pizzas, the Rustica, mild italian sausage and arugula, and the Quattro Stagioni, olives mushrooms ham and artichokes. 

Amber the bartenders is just as nice as she can be, very friendly and lively while she’s mixing up our drinks and telling us about Lucio and how much she enjoys working here. I can see why. The place has a very comfortable feel about it. 

 
The drinks are great, Brenda’s Bellini is pretty in a tall glass, Julies Miss chocolate has chocolate swirls around the glass, very fancy, and my Gintastic is cool and refreshing.  My Gintastic was a little light for me, but a great drink for a hot summer day. Soon the food starts to arrive. 



The calamari arrives first and it is so light and tender and melts in your mouth with a duo of cocktail sauce and tartar sauce for dipping. They use a different light breadcrumb on the calamari definitely some of the best fried calamari I have ever had. The pizzettas arrive, both very good sized for personal pizzas. 

My Rustica is very yummy, the sausages are mild and plentiful, and the arugula is fresh and piled high. I am a bit of a snob when it comes to pizza. Being a born and raised New Yorker you get use to really good pizza and frankly I haven’t found much out here to jump up and down about, but Lucio pizza is the real deal. The crust is thin and flavorful, something I never find out here, nice tangy sauce, fresh cheese just some dare good pizza.  

 
Julies Quattro Stagioni is covered with large slices of ham, and the rest of the fixings surrounding it.  So as you can guess we are munching away, laughing it up and having a grand time. The happy is kicking in.

 
Before you know it someone in the place is having a birthday and everyone in the place is singing the happy birthday song. Amber starts talking about a show the chefs put on and before you know it the chefs have animal masks on and the song “what does the fox say” is playing and they are dancing around in the kitchen area.  The lights go down the disco light brightens up and the place is jumping. What fun.

 
So I move on to wine and Julie tries her standard bloody mary, while Brenda tries out the Bourbon ball, bourbon hazelnut liquor and a chocolate rim. They do make some nice drinks. Julie’s bloody mary was pint sized and had all the trimmings and the bourbon drink looked very similar to the chocolate drink with the swirls of chocolate sauce in it. Amber starts telling us about her specialty drink she made while she was still on her high from her honeymoon in Hawaii which is the Mama Mia, vodka, guava, lime and prosecco.  She made us a sampling of it and I must say the best drink in the house. Very tasty with the guava and lime and a little bubbly with the prosecco, I would definitely get one of those drinks again.

We couldn’t even finish our pizzas so we boxed them up to go (a to-go box during happy hour, unheard of!). All in all a very fun time was had at Caffé Lucio. The place is bright and inviting, very warm friendly people working there, Lucio being his usual crazy self and yummy food and drink to enjoy. One of the best happy hours around town. Check it out.



Jo’s rating: 5 shots!!!!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chaminade

THE BUZZ ON THE LINDWOOD'S BAR & GRILL AT CHAMINADE

Happy Hour all day on Mondays, Tuesday - Thursday 4pm - 6pm

$4 Beers & House Wine $5 straight wells, $6 mixed wells (such as Bloody Marys) $7 Higher end drinks

1/2 Price on Selected Appetizers
$4 Tempura Green Beans with Garbanzo Batter, Shaved Pecorino Cheese, Habanero Aioli
$4.50 Fire Roasted Pezzini Farms Artichoke with Tarragon Aioli & Italian Vinaigrette Dipping Sauces
$6 Crispy Coconut Prawns or Flat Bread Pizzetta with Lemon Basil Ricotta, Caramelized Onions
$6.50 - Crispy Monterey Bay Calamari with Sriracha Aioli, Cocktail Sauce, Green Beans, Meyer Lemon
& Organic Tomatoes

Chaminade Web Site
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 Julie's Review


Jo and I have been remiss in our happy hour reviewing, or perhaps we are still recovering from our July Dive Bar Crawl.  We have been trying to get a happy hour scheduled for quite a while, but with our busy schedules, it just didn’t happen.  Chaminade has been on our list for quite some time and the fact that they have happy hour all day long on Mondays sealed the deal.


It turns out I had a dental cleaning right down the street and since I take valium any time I walk into a dentist’s office it made sense for Jo to pick me up and drive me up the hill.  I was quite relaxed and had a nice clean smile.  I had just gotten a message that our friend and happy hour consort Fred was in town from Oregon, so we met him at Linwood’s.


Chaminade is a resort and spa right up the hill from the graveyard behind Dominican hospital.  It has lovely grounds with flowers and a beautiful ocean view.  You think of it as a rather fancy, stuffy place, but it really isn’t.  They had a nice Halloween display with hay bales and pumpkins carved with the name Chaminade.

  
When we got to the bar, Fred was already there drinking a beer and eating the Tempura Green Beans.  No one else was in the place, which is always a plus for me.  We had our choice of seats.  Having happy hour all night long on Monday is great because it’s hard to get to this side of town with rush hour traffic and so many restaurants are closed on Monday.

  

Our first bartender was named Jr. and he was lively and friendly.  He was glad to explain about the food and drinks and told us the restaurant is committed to using locally grown meat and vegetables.

 
We munched on Fred’s green beans, which were really tasty.  For happy hour, selected appetizers are half off.  We decided to splurge and get three:   the Crispy Coconut Prawns, the Calamari and the Fire Roasted Artichoke.

The happy hour drink specials are $4 beer and wine, $5 for straight wells and $6 for mixed wells.  I decided to order a $6 bloody mary.  I was impressed with their well selection.  The bloody mary was spicy and delicious.  Josephine had a glass of wine.

  
We caught up with all of Fred’s news while waiting for the food to arrive.  It was great to have him back in Santa Cruz.  We stepped out to the deck to enjoy the view.  They have a nice seating area on the deck with heaters and umbrellas, but since it was an overcast day we wanted to be inside.

  
  
I decided to try a margarita next as I was the only one sampling cocktails.  The margarita came in a nice tall glass.  Fred carried on with his beer and Josephine her wine.

 

When we came back the food had arrived.  My favorite was the coconut prawns which were delicious with a light sauce.  The calamari was quite tasty and came with two dipping sauces.  My favorite was the Sriracha Aioli.  The Fire Roasted Artichoke had good flavor and was served with lemons and two kinds of dipping sauce.  The artichoke was a bit lemony for my taste, and I realized I am a mayonnaise and artichoke kinda gal. Overall, the food was very good. 


 

The service was great.  Jr. had to leave, so he turned us over to Elimar who was extremely friendly and helpful.  Linwood’s staff is quite international and if they are from another country it is listed below their name on their name tags.  Elimar is from the Philippines and shared what it was like to go between the two countries.    We talked about our five shot glass rating system and he was quick to guess the first four - service, price, ambience and food and drinks, but didn’t get hours.

We ordered one last drink and this time I decided to try a rum and coke.  Their well was Myers and that was a quite tasty well drink.  That combined with the good company made the evening fly. 

  
I would definitely recommend coming to check out the Chaminade – particularly on Monday.  Nothing makes me happier than an all-night happy hour in an empty bar.   The service is excellent, the food tasty, the view beautiful and the price reasonable.   I realized the valium combined with the cocktails may make some of the details a bit fuzzy, but I know it was a lovely evening in a great locale.  Linwood’s happy hour is a hidden gem.

  
Julie’s Rating: 4.5 shots!
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Jo's Review

The Chaminade Resort & Spa which is located on (of course) one Chaminade lane is an award winning resort that sits up on the hill overlooking the beautiful Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz. The resort has been around for a while and if you’ve never ventured up the road to this establishment it is well worth the trip. 
 
There’s of course guest room and all the regular spa resources at hand, lovely grounds, and with a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, and hiking trails there’s plenty to see and do here. But we are interested in happy hour so to the Linwood Bar & Grill where happy hour is served all day on Mondays, and Tuesday – Thursday 4-6pm. They have ½ off select appetizers, $4 beers and house wines, and $5-7 well drinks. 
 

The place has always been well decorated, you walk into the lobby with nicely decorated open seating and some special touches set up for fall. The bar is located downstairs with a nice size bar and plenty of seating. 




There’s a fireplace inside and windows all around so you can look onto the grounds and the bay in the distance. One of our dear friends Fred is in town and joining us for happy hour. He’s already there when we arrive. The place isn’t very crowded so we pretty much have the bar to ourselves and we know how to work it.  Julie gets right to it with the PR telling our bartender Junior who we are and what we are doing there.


We find out all the info and get the party started with wine for me, Julie starts with her usual bloody mary and Fred is already working on a beer. The bartender is very nice and friendly and we seem to be livening up the place already but then again we have a habit of getting the party stared wherever we are. We get our drinks start toasting it up with Fred and the camera starts flashing. 
 
Fred started with the Tempura green beans so we look over the menu and decide on Crispy fried calamari, crispy coconut prawns and fire roasted Pezzini farms artichokes. All of the dishes come with dipping sauces and all of the sauces were delicious. The calamari had sriracha aioli and cocktail sauce, the artichokes had Tarragon aioli and Italian vinaigrette, and the green beans had shaved pecorino cheese and habanero aioli. I tell you once the food arrived we were dipping fools.



Everything was very tasty and the dipping sauces really added to all the dishes. I especially liked the fried calamari, nice and light on the batter and flavored to boot. The prawns were crispy and full of flavor and they served 6 of them which were nice since most places usually serve 4 prawns.  I only had one Tempura bean and it was cold by the time I got to it but it still had good flavor. The artichoke looked great, roasted to perfection with grilled Meyers lemons to squeeze over it. I am not a big fan of artichokes so I wasn’t as impressed as Julie but she loved it. We were laughing it up and eating away and moving on to a second drink so the happy was going on.

 
We venture out to the patio to get some fresh air and enjoy the view. They have some seating outside with little fire pits in the middle of the table and heaters for a cozy outside gathering. I love the way Santa Cruz like to heat the outdoors for our enjoyment.

 
It was great getting together with Fred again. We only get to see him once a year and hopefully we will make it up to Oregon soon to visit with him there. I always enjoy having our friends join us for our happy hours. The more the merrier they say and that’s true, but let’s face it, our friends love a good happy hour as much as we do.
So all and all Chaminade is a great place to go for happy hour. The food was great, the staff very friendly and courteous and a view definitely worth seeing. 

  
Jo’s rating: 4 shots!