Restaurant News & Reviews

Dining Out: Try Italian by the bay

After operating DiStasio’s for 11 years in Los Osos, Ken MacMillan searched long and hard for a second location. So when Pacific Café vacated its quaint waterfront space on the south side of Morro Bay’s Embarcadero, MacMillan knew he found the perfect space for DiStasio’s on the Bay.

The new restaurant serves the same sumptuous homemade dishes as the Los Osos location with equally pleasant service. But that’s where the similarities end. DiStasio’s on the Bay is steps from the water with an entire wall of windows. While the Los Osos restaurant is cozy and warm with two fireplaces and comfy décor, the new space focuses on its beautiful surroundings.

The DiStasio name comes from MacMillan’s Italian-born mother, Helen DiStasio, whose recipes remain in use today.

The space is inviting and somewhat serene, given that it’s blocks away from most of the Embarcadero’s other restaurants. A wall of aged bricks is near the entrance while the rest of the interior is dark wood or those expansive windows. In the summertime, outside seating will be available to offer private dining opportunities on the water.

When I arrived on a recent evening, a handful of tables were filled with happy diners drinking wine, enjoying their meals and chatting quietly.

A friendly server brought fresh French bread and water to our table and corked the bottle of wine we’d brought ($12 corkage fee). We had our hearts set on trying this special wine; otherwise we would have ordered off the restaurant’s wine list, which is amply stocked with fairly priced local and Italian wines.

But back to the bread. Nice and warm, it was served with butter or a pungent olive oil, a nice holdover before our salads and appetizers arrived.

Salad choices include garden, Caesar ($4.95) and antipasto salad ($6.95).

The Caesar was a tower of chopped romaine, shaved parmesan and croutons tossed in a homemade dressing. The dressing, tangy with just the slightest essence of garlic and sardines, was delicious.

The house salad came with an olive oil and vinegar dressing packed with Italian spices. Also tangy, the dressing was delicious on the crisp salad. I drizzled it over my bread as well.

Next was the bowl of pan-fried calamari rings ($6.95) served with house marinara sauce, ranch and tartar sauces. The marinara sauce is a standout, a refreshing dip for the hot crispy rings.

Ravioli ($10.50) is homemade at DiStasio’s and comes filled with portabella mushrooms, cheese or meat. I took the server’s recommendation of pairing the portabella ravioli with the house-made pesto- Alfredo sauce. The filling of chopped mushrooms was both buttery and creamy. The ravioli were delicious, a rare treat with so many restaurants serving the premade version.

DiStasio’s spaghetti is a house favorite and served with marinara or meat sauce. The red sauces are especially tasty, and I highly recommend them as they accentuated each dish we tried. Portion alert: The excellent meatballs are nearly the size of baseballs.

The veal scaloppini ($14.50) was thin and tender, the slices of veal served simmering under the house marinara sauce, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. The serving was smaller than at most restaurants, but I welcomed this because Italian cuisine can be so filling. The veal was served with sautéed vegetables or pasta—I chose the vegetables, which were soft and sweet though a little more cooked than I prefer.

The manicotti ($12.25), two crepes filled with ricotta cheese and topped with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella, were thin and soft, the perfect wrapping for the rich cheeses.

With a bit of room left for dessert, we split an order of tiramisu. Rich, creamy and drizzled with espresso sauce, the dessert was an appropriate finish to our classic Italian meals.

Reach Dawn White at 781-7946.

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