DiStasio’s Ristorante and its Southern Italian cuisine has moved north — but not very far. In September 2011 the MacMillan family opened its third, newest — and now only — location at 781 Market St. in Morro Bay.
Don’t let that Scottish surname fool you, by the way. Ken MacMillan’s mother was the DiStasio, Italian through and through, and he grew up in Boston’s North End, one of the most Italian neighborhoods you’ll find in the U.S.
Like most Italian families, food and cooking were an integral part of daily life, so it’s no wonder that both Ken and son Mark, a chef, ended up in the restaurant business.
The MacMillan family opened DiStasio’s in Los Osos in April 1997 and added a second on the Embarcadero in 2007. Though both locations had their pluses, a big minus was that the MacMillans each helmed a separate location, “so I never got to see my dad,” said Mark. Ken agreed, adding that “consolidating the two is really letting us focus on consistency, and we really couldn’t ask for a better location than here.”
The new DiStasio’s by the Bay offers picture-perfect views of the estuary, the sandspit and Morro Rock — especially at sunset. Those enviable vistas are a bit belied by the unassuming entrance, but once inside you’ll be treated to an inviting early Tuscany look that “combines coziness with the view,” said Ken.
The scenery does indeed take center stage from every table, there’s a fireplace that’s very welcome on chilly evenings, and although it was a deliberate decision to go casual rather than be a “white linen” restaurant, there’s still a subtle touch of upscale here.
As far as cuisine, regulars of DiStasio’s can expect the same home-style Italian fare they’ve come to enjoy over the last 15 years, but the MacMillians have added steaks and more seafood to the menu as well.
Choose from a moist grilled halibut marinated in capers and garlic, a traditional braciole (slices of top sirloin rolled with Parmesan cheese and herbs and simmered in a hearty tomato sauce), or a ribeye steak with a hickory-smoked brandy sauce “that you should definitely try if you’re a steak lover,” said Mark.
Among the other popular items at DiStasio’s are a braised lamb shank with a veal demi glace, zesty chicken saltimbocca (chicken rolled around prosciutto and sautéed), and shrimp scampi served atop house-made fettuccine.
You can also enjoy that handcrafted pasta in dishes such as spinach/cheese carbonara, sausage lasagna, and beef cannelloni with either marinara or Alfredo sauce. And, if you were a fan of the Los Osos location’s pizza and calzones, not to worry — the MacMillans weren’t about to leave their 5,000-pound brick pizza oven behind.
Like many Italian restaurants, DiStasio’s offers a lot of items that would suit a vegetarian diet (you can ask for the menu that lists them separately), and the MacMillans have sourced a high-quality, gluten-free pasta so they can give guests that option as well.
“That’s one of the very few things we don’t make from scratch,” said Ken. “We’re making the pizza dough, the minestrone soup, most of the pastas, and every single sauce is scratch-made — our handed-down marinara recipe is over 100 years old. This is your typical, neighborhood, family-owned Italian restaurant. We want you to come as you are, to be comfortable, and enjoy cooked-to-order affordable food.”
Katy Budge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.