I had a working lunch last week and the people that I was meeting with let me pick the place. I thought it would be great to try out Il Vecchio’s lunch in Pacific Grove. I had eaten there for dinner when they first opened in 2012 but had not been back since. I remember seeing advertisements as I drove by on Central for their “Worker Lunch”—a price and menu-fixed two (or three) course lunch. Well they have changed that now and offer lunch from noon to 1:30pm. The menu is small but offers quite a wide variety of pastas and focaccia grilled sandwiches, a couple salads, a soup of the day, and several dessert options. A green salad is included with the pasta or focaccia sandwich. They offer $6 glasses of some lovely wines and prosecco amidst a very unique and eclectic atmosphere. I would call it sophisticated but not pretentious.
The interior of the restaurant was designed and built by the owner’s daughter, Ariele Alasko. She salvaged the wood from old abandoned churches in New York where she attended the Pratt Institute, and along her cross-country trip in a moving van on her way to PG to build the place. The chairs are all unique and most are authentic antiques. The artwork is fantastic and there are orchids decorating the charcoal grey wood walls and furniture. Mostly unassuming on the outside, so much so you may not know from just walking by the white windowed façade, that inside is a bustling restaurant serving delicious Italian fare. The owner, Carl Alasko, lived in Rome for eleven years and during that time gained an appreciation for Italian food. When they were first opening, Carl got the head chef of Ristorante Maccheroni in Rome to come train the staff on the art and precision of preparing Italian cuisine.
They maintain a full bar and feature Italian inspired cocktails, think negroni, bellini, or valentino. And their wine list is very reasonably priced, offering several wines from California and Italy.
The desserts are all incredibly appetizing and delicious: chocolate marscapone cake, tiramisu…you get the idea. They now sell their “Regazzi Creations” gelato, a layered gelato for you to take home and enjoy. Flavors include the SAN PIETRO: pistachio & caramelized almonds, walnuts, caramel, vanilla gelato; FORESTA: raspberry, blueberry, blackberry puree, vanilla gelato; and CAFFÈ ROMA dark espresso coffee swirled into vanilla gelato among many others.
For lunch I ordered the Assisi focaccia which came with a serving of salad. The green salad was comprised of lovely greens, tomatoes, onions, and al dente zucchini with a light vinaigrette. I really appreciated the zucchini because there’s a fine line between al dente zucchini and soggy zucchini and you can imagine which I prefer…it was perfect. The focaccia was a hot, pressed sandwich filled with chard, kale, and spinach all steamed in garlic with a generous slice of ever-so-slightly tart sheep’s milk feta cheese. On the side there was a medley of pickled vegetables.
The next time you’re in the mood for some good Italian food or are looking for a lovely place to celebrate an occasion (or a day ending in “y”) with your honey, mosey on down Central Ave., right before the border of Monterey for a nice meal at a lovely local locale.
**a shorter version of this story was originally published in my column Postcards from the Kitchen in the Cedar Street Times on 7 September2018