Cello Ristorante and Bar is hitting all the right notes. Nestled inside the recently opened Allegretto Vineyard Resort by Ayres in Paso Robles, the restaurant —its name is pronounced “chello,” like the instrument — mirrors the hotel’s intriguing blend of Italian-style architecture, natural surfaces and eclectic artwork.
The entire property is upscale and welcoming, upbeat and relaxing — an attitude that reflects the spirit of “allegretto,” a musical term the hotel’s website describes as “a moderate tempo … neither too fast nor too slow, it’s light, graceful and comfortable.”
The restaurant’s comfortable main dining area offers seating at tables, in booths and at the bar, with additional seating outside on the patio. The hotel also has several meeting rooms, so you can enjoy an intimate special occasion, a casual group get-together or host a formal party for a couple hundred people.
Eric Olson, Cello’s executive chef and director of food and beverage, serendipitously met hotel visionary Doug Ayres while the family-owned property was still in development and was able to develop the eatery’s concept and menu from the beginning.
A California native, Olson has an impressive résumé. He attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, as well as the Culinary Institute of America in both Napa and New York. From there, he continued his education in several different countries, taught at various culinary schools and was the executive chef at upscale properties in Pebble Beach, Westlake Village and Ojai.
For Cello’s breakfast, lunch, bar and dinner menus, Olson has orchestrated an underlying Italian/Mediterranean approach with touches of global influence and a strong emphasis on local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients.
“We want to steer people towards local products, and to support the community,” Olson said.
The restaurant’s beverages chime the same chorus, with locally roasted coffees, a predominantly San Luis Obispo County wine list and several local craft drafts. Similarly, the cocktail menu created by house mixologist Alexandra Pellot features house-made syrups and bitters, plus several drinks made with spirits from local distilleries such as Re:Find and KroBar.
Among the menu choices at breakfast are duck hash topped with Cal Poly quail eggs, a chile relleno stuffed with sheep milk cheese from Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles, or almond-encrusted French toast made with bread from Edna’s Bakery in San Luis Obispo.
Lunchtime options include a salad with thyme-seared day boat scallops topped with Morro Bay avocados, a Diestel turkey burger drizzled with Templeton Olive Oil and housemade Italian sausage ravioli served in a creamy garlic sauce made with white wine from HammerSky Vineyards in Paso Robles.
A sustainably caught seafood special, steaks and wood-fired flatbreads join the chorus at dinnertime, including a flatbread topped with creamy leeks and smoked Santa Barbara salmon. Other dishes range from a garden salad with heirloom tomatoes from Loo Loo Farms in Paso Robles, to pork belly carbonara tossed with herbs from Cello chefs’ gardens, to a risotto made with foraged mushrooms.
Seeing foraging as the ultimate in locally sourced ingredients, Olson is an avid forager of everything from Toyon berries to dulse seaweed to fennel pollen. Those ingredients typically show up in deft touches to highlight Cello’s seasonally driven menus.
“This is just such a wonderful area, from all the wineries to all the (food) producers, this is the best,” Olson said. “For a chef, it really is the place to be.”
Cello Ristorante and Bar is one of several restaurants participating in San Luis Obispo County’s Restaurant Month in January. For more information, go to www.visitsanluisobispocounty.com/restaurant-month.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com
Cello Ristorante and Bar at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort by Ayres
2700 Buena Vista Drive (off Highway 46 East), Paso Robles
369-2500, ext. 5, ayreshotels.com/allegretto-resort-and-vineyard-paso-robles
Hours: Breakfast daily 7:30-10 a.m., lunch daily 12-2 p.m., dinner Thursday-Saturday 6-8:30 p.m.; bar menu daily, Monday-Thursday 4-8 p.m., Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
The scene: The restaurant reflects the same warmth as the luxurious hotel. (The art pieces and curios located throughout the property are worth a trip in themselves. You’ll find all genres from around the world over represented there.)
The cuisine: A classic Italian/Mediterranean foundation with global accents and a strong emphasis on local, seasonal and sustainable.
Expect to spend: Breakfast, lunch and bar menus $13-20, dinner $12-25