Restaurant News & Reviews

Paso chef: 3 ways to add summer flavor to bold Italian dishes

Seared scallops and sweet peas are served with parmesan fonduta at Il Cortile Ristorante in Paso Robles.
Seared scallops and sweet peas are served with parmesan fonduta at Il Cortile Ristorante in Paso Robles.

In 2009, chef Santos MacDonal and his wife, Carole, opened Il Cortile Ristorante, a fine dining Italian restaurant in downtown Paso Robles. They added the nearby La Cosecha Bar + Restaurant in 2013.

Il Cortile — the name is Italian for “The Courtyard” — features from-scratch dishes such as housemade pastas, braised osso bucco and grilled seafood. Using the same rustic approach, La Cosecha (Spanish for “The Harvest”) focuses on the cuisines of Spain, South America and Central America, especially Santos MacDonal’s native Honduras.

Both restaurants feature his expertise with fresh, seasonal ingredients. A frequent visitor to farmers markets, MacDonal relishes showcasing local products with classically simple preparations and elegant plating.

His cuisine is complemented by Carole MacDonal’s well-curated and food-friendly wine lists, featuring Central Coast labels and select imported wines.

“Paso Robles has such an exciting food and wine scene,” she said. “All this is a passion and a dream come true for us.”

Q: Chef Santos, what is your favorite local/seasonal ingredient that you’re currently using in your menus, and why?

A: This is one of my favorite times of year for a few of the local ingredients I like to use: fava beans, shelling peas and sugar snap peas. (They) always show the best of the spring/early summer locally because they are not only delicious but can dress up a plate beautifully.

SECONDARY Il Cortile pasta
A summer pasta dish at Il Cortile Ristorante in Paso Robles features spaghetti, peas and fava beans. David Middlecamp

Q: How are you currently using them?

A: I am using the fava beans in a pasta with lemon zest and ricotta salata, and I am using the shelling peas in a scallop dish with a parmesan fonduta. I use the sugar snap peas in a soup, which is a simple puree.

Q: How do these particular dishes represent your culinary style/background/philosophy?

A: I like these ingredients because they all have their own flavor, which stands out in each dish. I like to keep my dishes simple with flavor so each ingredient speaks for itself.

Q: How would home cooks approach these ingredients in their own kitchens?

A: I would tell home cooks to not over-complicate using these ingredients. Find what you like about the taste of each and use it in a dish to express itself. For example, the peas I use in the scallop dish compliment the savory taste of the scallops and the saltiness of the parmesan.

Il Cortile chef Santos MacDonal
Santos MacDonal is chef at Il Cortile Ristorante in Paso Robles. David Middlecamp

Q: What is your favorite dish to cook at home?

A: My favorite dish to cook at home is roasted chicken. It was always something we cooked at home growing up and it actually is my mom’s recipe. It’s very simple with a marinade of lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt pepper and cumin. It just reminds me of home.

Q: What is your favorite food and wine pairing?

A: Any kind of lamb dish. Depending on how I prepare it, I pair it with either a syrah for a braised lamb dish or an Italian super Tuscan with grilled lamb.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at

Il Cortile Ristorante

608 12th St., Paso Robles

805-226-0300 or

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Tuesday.

The scene: Italian fine dining in a casual atmosphere; seating available outdoors in the courtyard or indoors in the main dining area and bar.

The cuisine: From-scratch Italian dishes include freshly made pastas, grilled local seafood and seasonal truffle preparations.

Expect to spend: Antipasti $13 to $21, pastas $20 to $25, entrées $25 to $45.

La Cosecha Bar + Restaurant

835 12th St., Paso Robles

805-237-0019 or

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday; 5 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The scene: Welcoming downtown space with indoor and sidewalk seating.

The cuisine: Spanish and Latin cuisines highlight local and seasonal ingredients, including in the inventive cocktail program.

Expect to spend: Lunch entrees about $15, dinner entrees $15 to $30