Back story: Thirteen years after opening Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, Brandon Boudet and Warner Ebbink have spun off a sibling, Little Dom’s Seafood, in downtown Carpinteria. The location is less random than it might seem, given that Ebbink lives in Carp and Boudet has a place in Ojai.
The atmosphere: The former Sly’s space at the corner of Linden Avenue and 7th Street has been thoroughly redone, and it looks sharp, with the same retro charm of the original Little Dom’s. The first room has a spiffy bar and booths against the window, while the second room moves the booths to the other side. Of course, you’re not going to be inside unless you’re visiting the restroom or someone devises a vaccine. Outdoor tables stretch down both streets, and there are no heat lamps (yet?), so bring a wrap or ask to sit on the Linden side, which gets sun.
The menu: The restaurant’s name is a slight misnomer. While there is a “seafood bar” (six items, half raw and half cooked), the rest of the menu is more turf than surf. And those non-seafood options—pizza, meatball burger, beef tenderloin, spaghetti and meatballs—are as mainstream as Italian food gets, perhaps a hedge against fears that Carp isn’t ready for too inventive a menu.
The food: We ordered the uni; smoked fish rillettes; arugula and parmesan salad; tonnarelli cacio e pepe; halibut piccata; and scoops of gelato—olive oil for my husband, corn and blackberry for me—for dessert. Portions were smaller than expected for a restaurant pushing the Little Italy vibe, and everything was fine to good, if not especially memorable. The standouts were the rillettes, the halibut, and the corn gelato, which came with the tastiest biscotti nugget.
Service: Our waiter—whose accent was the most Italian part of the entire operation—was charming and enthusiastic, which helped smooth over gaffes such as bringing a “Chianti Sangiovese” (it was a Sangiovese) instead of the Chianti we had ordered. Less appealing was the whirlwind pace of the meal. We received our appetizers within five minutes of ordering, well before the cutlery or wine, and then our entrées showed up before the first round of plates had even been cleared. We were ready for dessert 35 minutes after we had sat down. I doubt that the speed was intentional, but coupled with the way the hosts hovered around with tablets, monitoring diners’ progress, our dinner was less relaxing than it should’ve been.
Anything else? The rearmost section of the building is a “deli,” with pizzas, sandwiches, and more available for takeout. I’ll need to investigate that separately. In the meantime, there’s a menu online which may or may not be current.
Bottom line: Little Dom’s Seafood feels like a big-city restaurant, which is a serious step forward for Carpinteria’s food scene. The farther you have to travel to get there, however, the less essential the restaurant seems. That said, don’t underestimate the thrill of venturing somewhere new these days, and hanging out in Carp for a few hours can feel like a refreshing mini-vacation.
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