First impressions have always been of the utmost importance, and they definitely do not disappoint when walking through the doors of Olio e Limone which, translated in Italian, means “oil and lemon,” and as is stated on the menu, “Nothing in the food world is better than the natural embrace between the olive and the lemon.” The simplistic, sophisticated décor and sense of Italian gardens opens the door for the more suitable overwhelming and alluring aromas of old-world Italy.
Owners Elaine and Alberto Morello form quite the dynamic duo. While Alberto creates gastronomic masterpieces, Elaine greets guests with her fun-loving attitude. Chef Alberto Morello, originally from Sicily, uses only authentic, quality ingredients to create dishes reminiscent of that served during only the finest of Sicilian gatherings.
The vast wine cellar is easily visible through the glass wall. With an impressive 230 plus wines to choose from, there is sure to be a wine for every dish and occasion. Two-thirds of the wines offered are of Italian origin. Traditional regions Tuscany and Piedmont are certainly present, but the list extends to include Veneto and Sicily. This extensive wine list has honored Olio e Limone the prestigious Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 2002. This year, Olio e Limone was one of only seven to earn the coveted Grand Award honor.
LA Magazine touts Olio e Limone as “The city’s best Italian food”. Bon Appetit describes the food as “sumptuous” and highlights the “Duck breast [which] comes with figs and balsamic demi-glace, and beef tenderloin [that] is drizzled with truffle oil and served on a crisp potato tart with arugala and Parmesan.” Of the desserts chosen to highlight was the popular “Pear Carpaccio. Cut lengthwise into thin, transparent slices, it looks like a botanical illustration.” The “fanned-out slices are strewn with crumbled Gorgonzola dolce (that glorious mild blue) and fresh walnuts.”
The ZAGAT Survey felt that “There are too many innovative dishes to order in just one visit,” so they returned in back-to-back years 2005 and 2006. If visiting Santa Barbara and Olio e Limone, the Surveyors recommend the “not-to-be-missed signature spaghetti alla bottarga.” Dinner entrees range from $13 to $26.
In an attempt to replicate these dishes at home, one needs to start with only the finest ingredients, and while the restaurant does not offer every detail to replicate every meal, it does provide their signature olive oil and balsamic vinegar for retail.
Their signature Extra-virgin olive oil is certified organic, cold-pressed and unfiltered. Originating from Sicily, this distinctive oil is a blend of three local olive varieties hand-picked from 100-year old trees – Nocellara (a fruity, eating olive), Cerasuola (a full-bodied light-green olive) and Biancolilla (bold color and fragrant). As is stated on the restaurant’s website, this oil has ”a lightly spicy olive, almond and green tomato flavor,” with a peppery finish and “is ideally suited for drizzling over greens, or for sautéing fish or meats.”
Their complimenting signature Balsamic vinegar is also Certified Organic. The carefully-selected combination of grape must and wine vinegar is seasoned in antique oak casks to giving it tempting flavors of sweet and sour with matching aromas, making this perfect compliment to any salad, vegetable side dish, meat and/or dessert.
Olio e Limone is at 17 W. Victoria St., Santa Barbara; (805) 899-2699.
Note: Alberto and Elaine Morello has recently opened the doors of their new Olio Pizzeria, which is conveniently located next door to Olio e Limone. Be sure to stop in for a unique pizza experience!