How to mix traditional Italian food and seasonal produce

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Tradition is important in Italian cuisine, but sometimes it can stifle a chef’s creativity.

“If you try to change something, you get approached by someone with a machete,” jokes Dario Furlati, the chef and owner of Ca’ Dario Ristorante and Ca’ Dario Pizzeria in Santa Barbara. He’s been cooking in town for almost 30 years, and met Katie Hershfelt at the market this week.

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Furlati uses sage from Shepherd Farms on Ca’ Dario’s trademark dish, ravioli al burro e salvia. Photo: Kathryn Barnes

“I changed my menu a long time ago, and it was a big problem,” he said. “There was a revolt.” Although he speaks in exaggerations, the sentiment is true. Most of his regular customers love Ca’ Dario because the menu never changes and they can always order their favorite dish.

He plays with local, seasonal produce through his specials, including a daily rotating risotto recipe.

Sea Bass with English Shelling Peas from Ellwood Canyon Farms
  • 2-6 oz fillet of local Sea Bass
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Italian Parsley for garnish
  • Salt and white pepper

Sauté fish skin up with oil till light brown.

Turn fish skin down and discharge oil, add garlic, shallot and peas.

Add salt and white pepper and let simmer for a minute or two, then add white wine and butter and cook till sauce is slightly reduced.

Serve fish on a plate and garnish with Italian parsley.

Furlati will be honored by the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County at their fundraiser, the 3rd Annual Fork Cork Classic on April 10th.