a man enters Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Checking in on Venus Beachside post-remodel, Soif 2.0 coming to Perg & chili crisp

Hello again! I have returned from a four-month break I took this spring to have a baby. Now, Cecilia is a bouncing, thriving 4-month-old, and I am brimming with new story ideas to bring to you, our Lookout readers. Thank you to Jessica M. Pasko, who kept you up to date on Santa Cruz County’s dining news and shared her personal food experiences through this newsletter while I was on parental leave. And thank you to contributing food writers Laura Sutherland and Ashley Spencer for their reporting while I was away.

It’s good to be back! As always, I look forward to hearing from you at lily@lookoutlocal.com or via text message.

Remodeled Venus Beachside puts spirits front and center, leans into seafood

The lobster roll at Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

After a six-month makeover, Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside is back open for business on the Esplanade in Rio Del Mar. Craft cocktails headline the new-look bar, and in addition to faves from its Westside sister location, Beachside boasts lobster rolls, clam chowder and a changing slate of dishes featuring freshly caught fish. Read more here.

Soif 2.0 coming to former Caffe Pergolesi spot as ex-chef Majano plots return to Walnut Ave.

After 20 years, the restaurant at Soif will be closing.
(Via Soif / Instagram)

Soif Wine Bar and Merchant will close the doors on its Walnut Avenue location Sunday in downtown Santa Cruz, but a short move to the Victorian that once housed Caffe Pergolesi is in the works. Meanwhile, Santos Majano, onetime Soif chef who also headed the Kitchen at Discretion Brewing, is cooking up something with business partner Lejla Borovac for the spot Soif is vacating. Read more here.


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From left: Mary Ellen Spanu, Lindsay Rodriguez, Giovanbattista Spanu and Matteo Robecchi, owners at Lago di Como.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Two new business partners have helped turn hidden gem Lago di Como, an Italian restaurant in Live Oak, into a diamond. The focus is on regional dishes from northern Italy and Sardinia with an emphasis on seafood, homemade pasta and steaks aged in-house, and the interior has been beautifully remodeled with vintage Lake Como vibes. Read the full review.


$40,000 — Price for a 2006 diesel food truck with a 2018 commercial kitchen buildout, for sale locally. Thinking of entering the food truck biz? Tibetan dumpling business Nomad Momo’s old food truck is for sale after the owner opened a café on River Street in 2020. Check it out on Craigslist.


Milk, eggs, coffee, chili crisp — this spicy condiment has become a staple in the Belli house. A common site in Asian homes and restaurants, it suddenly took the wider culinary world by storm a couple of years ago and has become the hot sauce of choice for the adults in my house. Why? The crispy-crunchy mix of chilis, peppercorns and fried garlic swimming in chili oil add an addictive texture to anything we spoon it over — from burrito bowls to dumplings to fried eggs. I have to admit, the other hot sauces rattling in our fridge door are getting a little crusty from neglect. If you want to add chili crisp to your pantry, you can find it at most grocery stores. Lao Gan Ma is a popular brand, and Momofuku and Fly By Jing offer indie favorites. We consistently have a couple of jars of Trader Joe’s Chili Onion Crunch in the house at any given time. Locally, chef Andy Huynh of Santa Cruz pop-up Full Steam Dumpling makes the best, most umami-laden version I’ve ever had, which he sells at his kitchen in the Santa Cruz Art Lounge. The others are easily found online, but his is worth seeking out.


… for Anchor Brewing Co., the creator of steam beer. Owner Sapporo announced last Wednesday that it will close San Francisco’s iconic brewery after 127 years in business citing “economic pressures,” “impacts of the pandemic” and “inflation.” While all these factors certainly exist in today’s economy, Sapporo’s mismanagement of the brand should also be to blame. The Japanese corporation bought Anchor in 2017. It angered Anchor fans when it discontinued the beloved Christmas Ale, and an ugly all-yellow rebrand did not go well. It’s a sad end to what is often touted as America’s first craft brewery — although some San Francisco residents might try to swoop in to save it, like Fritz Maytag did in the 1960s.


Eaters Digest: Berries at Prevedelli Farms (Lookout)
Fresh Take: What’s going on With antibiotics in meat? (Forbes)
In-N-Out bans employees from wearing masks (Los Angeles Times)

Happy dining!

~ Lily