Chefs and staff from kitchens in Capitola and Soquel teamed up for Cooking for Capitola on Feb. 6.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz )
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Cooking for Capitola a smashing success, Burger Week is nigh & Valentine’s rib-eye

This week, Lily recaps the team effort by Capitola and Soquel chefs and their staffs that raised $40,000 to help workers affected by post-storm restaurant closures, previews Santa Cruz Burger Week and reveals a meaty splurge.

All-star fundraiser Cooking for Capitola raises $40K for restaurant employees

Several chefs work together to plate a dish of roasted king trumpet mushrooms at Cooking for Capitola on Feb. 6.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“When a disaster comes, chefs have a great opportunity to step up and help out the community,” Anthony Kresge said of the event he organized with fellow chefs from Capitola and Soquel. “It was good to see an event like that after all the disasters and the pandemic — a celebration of community.” Read more here.

‘Seven days of burger love’ right around the corner in Santa Cruz County

File image of burger and fries on plate
(Via Pixabay)

Santa Cruz Burger Week kicks off next Wednesday, Feb. 22, and runs through Feb. 28, with participants including Bruno’s Bar and Grill in Scotts Valley, Hula’s Island Grill in Santa Cruz and Parish Publick House in Aptos. Read more here.


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Measure O, which sought to block the proposed mixed-use affordable housing and library project set to be built on Lot 4, was struck down during the November election. So what’s next for the downtown farmers market, which has called Lot 4 home for the past 20 years? Director Nesh Dhillon says the downtown market will remain at that site for at least a year before moving to a temporary location and, finally, a permanent downtown home. Check out the update here.


1.45 billion — The number of chicken wings eaten during Super Bowl Sunday 2023, according to the National Chicken Council’s annual Chicken Wing Report. This is an increase of 2% from last year’s report, the equivalent of 84 million more wings. Why the uptick? More people are gathering post-pandemic than in the previous few years and prices are more favorable.

Pizza My Heart owner Chuck Hammers in Washington's halls of power ahead of Tuesday's State of the Union address.
(Via Chuck Hammers)

“In the minutes before the president arrived, I was struck by how collegial the representatives and senators were with one another, even across the aisle. The atmosphere seemed much more like a reunion in a high school gym than a charged political event.” — Pizza My Heart owner Chuck Hammers on being at the State of the Union address Feb. 7. He was invited by Rep. Jimmy Panetta to represent storm-damaged Capitola. Read about his experience in Community Voices.


Just a reminder: This is the second-to-last Lily Belli on Food newsletter written by me that you’ll receive for the next few months. Friday, Feb. 25, is my last day before I go on maternity leave, and I’ll return the first week of July. Several talented writers will be keeping you informed of what’s happening food-and-drink-wise in Santa Cruz County starting the last few days of February through the end of June.

Most prominently, Laura Sutherland, a nationally published food writer and longtime Santa Cruz Westsider, will share food, drink and agriculture stories from around the county in weekly features. I’ve been a fan of Sutherland’s through her contributions to Central Coast food magazine Edible Monterey Bay, and am excited to have her on board here at Lookout.

Other writers will make sure that this newsletter keeps coming to your inbox every Tuesday, with industry news and restaurant updates from around the county, plus a few insights of their own.

And what about me? I’ll be reading from afar while snuggling my new daughter, Cecilia, and spending time with my son, Marco, and husband, Mike. If you have a great slow-cooker or freezer recipe to share with a postpartum mom, I’m all ears! Email me at or text me here.


… on grass-fed, grain-finished rib-eye from El Salchichero, the butcher shop on Santa Cruz’s Westside. Its prime beef from sustainable California ranchers is super flavorful and tender, and over the years it’s become my husband and my go-to cut for special occasions. I picked up a couple to cook at home for a Valentine’s Day feast after Marco goes to bed, since we weren’t able to make it out of the house this year to a local restaurant. I’m excited to try this cocoa-spiced steak recipe, created by local cookbook author Andrea Nguyen for the February issue of Food & Wine magazine. To us, high-quality steak always feels like a celebration. Learn more about El Salchichero’s butchery at


Oakland Baker and Activist Jen Angel Dies After Being Injured During a Violent Robbery (Eater SF)
This Palo Alto startup delivers Michelin-starred restaurant dishes from India to your home (San Jose Mercury News)
10 Special Wines for Valentines (Edible Monterey Bay)

Happy dining!

~ Lily