Lily Belli’s exhaustive search for Santa Cruz County’s best BLT has yielded not one but two winners, classics from Sicily and Genoa play well on Water Street, a sweet local bakery lands in the Capitola Mall and a tasty reason to head to Skypark are all on the menu in the latest Eaters Digest.
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Happy Friday! School might be back in session and the Halloween decorations might be up at your local CVS, but it’s still definitely summer. Let’s soak up the last few joys of this season while we can.
After fielding lots of recommendations from readers and eating a borderline-irresponsible number of BLT sandwiches, I’ve found my favorites. Yes, there are two, although I wouldn’t necessarily say they “tied” — one is a classic no-frills but perfectly executed bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich; the other is a masterful, chefy creation that will blow your BLT-loving mind.
This week, my husband and I stopped in at the newly opened Bedda Mia in Santa Cruz and reminisced about a Sicilian vacation over regional specialities. There’s a lot to love at this cute new spot, helmed by La Placa Family Bakery owner Leo La Placa and his business partner Alessio Casagrande.
Also, macaron darling Sugar Bakery opened a storefront inside the Capitola Mall, joining dozens of other local businesses. Mark your calendars for Mexi-Pino Fest next weekend, a fun fusion event that will celebrate Filipino and Mexican cultures. And why not hit up one of the last Food Truck Fridays in Scotts Valley?
Sugar Bakery, a local cottage bakery specializing in custom macarons, cupcakes and cheesecakes, opened a storefront this week inside the Capitola Mall. As I reported in my story on local businesses at the mall, baker Ela Crawford and husband Henry have enjoyed the rapid growth of their pandemic-born bakery. When orders from New Leaf Community Markets, Deluxe Foods, local businesses and customers began flooding in for Ela’s joyful creations, they outgrew their local commissary kitchen. Their newly remodeled pink-and-white storefront offers colorfully decorated macarons in flavors like mango and passionfruit; fresh lemon and white chocolate; and hazelnuts and coffee, plus flavored cheesecakes by the slice — and offers five times the baking space for Ela. Sugar Bakery is open every day 11 a.m to 5 p.m. inside the food court at the Capitola Mall.
Earlier this month, I asked you for your recommendations for the best BLT in Santa Cruz County, and many of you kindly sent in your favorites. Since then, I’ve been on the hunt and have dedicated many lunches to hard-hitting journalistic investigation. Now, I believe I’ve found my favorite. Well, actually, two favorites — but although both feature bacon, lettuce and excellent tomatoes, they’re wildly different. In case my selections spur debate, let me note here at the top that I did not eat every BLT in the county, although I did eat almost 10.
You can find the best classic BLT at Café Delmarette in downtown Santa Cruz. This little café tucked next to the Del Mar Theatre waits until summer before putting this sandwich on the menu (any other time of year, you can get a BLA — bacon, lettuce and avocado). This version is simple but clearly made with care: toasted sourdough bread, garlicky aioli, ripe, red early girl tomatoes, bacon and romaine lettuce. Perfection. I have no notes.
In contrast, the BLT at Reef Dog Deli in the Capitola Village blew my expectations away. Anthony Kresge, who created the menus at Belly Goat Burgers and Vamonos Comida in Abbott Square Market and the former chef at now-closed Sotola, is clearly passionate about sandwiches and is incredibly talented to boot. The sourdough toast barely held this massive creation together. Inside, layered with care to prevent slippage, were thick slices of sweet yellow and red heirloom tomatoes; crispy pork belly; creamy lemon-dressed greens with torn basil; and thinly sliced cucumbers and avocado, bound with a creamy basil pesto mayonnaise and seasoned with salt and pepper. It’s an ode to summer in the form of a sandwich. This sandwich is a seasonal specialty and is available only “until all the heirlooms fall off the vine,” according to Kresge — probably mid-September. Get it while you can!
On Tuesday, my husband and I enjoyed a lovely midweek date at Bedda Mia, a new Italian restaurant located on Water Street in the spot Pearl of the Ocean vacated this winter. Bedda Mia, which means “my beautiful” in Sicilian, is owned by Leo La Placa, who has La Placa Family Bakery in Ben Lomond, and his business partner Alessio Casagrande, a talented baker and chef. I adore La Placa’s bakery — my husband and I served his infamous Italian bombolini donuts, stuffed with either sweetened ricotta or nutella, at our wedding instead of cake — so we were excited to try his new restaurant.
The menu offers classic Italian appetizers, pizzas, pastas and secondi, plus desserts made by La Placa. Since La Placa is Sicilian and Casagrande comes from Genoa, we decided to sample regional specialties from those areas. We loved an assortment of arancini from the specials menu — all crispy, cheesy and stuffed with several fillings, including ragu and spinach, plus a few panelle, or Sicilian chickpea fritters. The caponata was one of the best I’ve had, a delightful mix of crunchy celery with creamy eggplant and tomatoes, salty olives and capers balanced with red wine vinegar and sugar. Served chilled with crostini, it’s so refreshing on a hot evening. We also enjoyed a plate of classic Genovese pesto served with the traditional short, twisted trofie pasta. Of course, we got dessert, although there were no bombolini on the menu. A deconstructed cannoli with layers of crispy pastry, creamy ricotta married with bright, sweet orange and chocolate chips was a sweet finish to the meal.
Find Bedda Mia at 736 Water St. in Santa Cruz. It’s open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
It’s time for another installment of the monthly summer Food Truck Friday at Skypark in Scotts Valley. The season is winding down, and there are only three of these fun events left in the year. On this Friday night, the food truck lineup includes Scrumptious Fish & Chips, Saucey’z, Taquizas Gabriel, Kuki’s Bowl, Cracked Cookies and Aunt LaLi’s ice cream truck. Spread out on the grass with your family and tasty eats while KPIG’s Michael Gaither performs with his band, Michael Gaither & Friends. Proceeds from the beer and wine garden support Scotts Valley schools. Entry to this event is free, and it goes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Mark your calendars for this fun event coming Labor Day weekend. On Saturday, Sept. 3, head to Woodhouse Blending & Brewing in Santa Cruz for Mexi-Pino Fest, a celebration of Mexican and Filipino cultures and their historic relationship. Expect a killer fusion menu from fine-dining Filipino pop-up Masarap, local art vendors, music and fun, family-friendly activities. This event is presented by Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Mi Gente and launches its Hispanic Heritage Month. The event runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. RSVP at migenteca.org.