A RICH LUNCH : Cioppino brimming with seafood is now available for lunch on Mondays at Ciopino.
HWY. 46 WEST WINERIES NEIGHBORHOOD BLOCK PARTY SATURDAY, SEPT. 5: There are now 16 wineries along Highway 46 West in Paso Robles, and this friendly group gathers for special events several times a year. Now they’re offering another great reason for dropping by: their neighborhood block party. All of these wineries will gather at Donati Family Vineyard, located at the corner of Hwy. 46 West and Vineyard Drive, for an evening of wine, barbecue, and live music. What makes this event special is the fact that these vintners enjoy it as much as the consumers do. As always there’re offering a generous selection of their wines for tasting, they’ll be cooking Santa Maria Style barbecue, and they’ll have the live music of Funk: 30.
“The block party includes all of our neighbors. It’s a great chance to get together over wine and food, and listen to good music,” said Maggie D’Ambrosia, co-owner of Windward, the only Paso Robles brand devoted exclusively to Pinot Noir. You could arrive early for a stop by their tasting room to taste several vintages of their excellent wines. Or stop in at any of the other wineries in the group; most of them have tasting rooms that are open daily.
The participating wineries, including several new brands in the area, are: AJB, Castoro, Croad, Doce Robles, Donati Family, Donatoni, Eagle Castle, Fratelli Perata, Grey Wolf, Hunt Cellars, JanKris, Midnight Cellars, Peachy Canyon, Rocky Creek Cellars, Rotta, and Windward. They’re offering another service for visitors: you can catch a reasonably priced, safe ride to and from your hotel through the Wine Line. Do note that you must reserve in advance, as soon as possible, or you’ll miss this opportunity. It’s $10 per person and you can make reservations directly with the tour service by calling 888-9WineLine (888-994-6354). There are a limited number of seats available so it’s first come first served.
You get all the block party has to offer and it will only cost you $20 per person; it doesn’t get any cheaper than that. Cash or checks will be accepted at the door the day of the event, but you’ll do them a favor by reserving your space in advance. The event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 5, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There is no number to call but you can get information and tickets online by visiting paso46west wineries.com.
Early this year, when restaurateur Leonard Cohen opened his seafood house, Ciopinot, it was enthusiastically embraced by the community. The place was packed nightly despite the recession, which has certainly caused a decline in sales at some of the best restaurants around the county. Ciopinot’s popularity is exactly as Cohen predicted it would be before he opened his doors in the former Tortilla Flats restaurant near Nipomo and Higuera streets. He stated that no restaurant before Ciopinot was dedicated to serving fresh seafood in downtown San Luis Obispo.
When he opened last January, locals swarmed Ciopinot like bees swarm the hive. Cohen’s dream of creating a temple devoted to fresh tuna, crab, cioppino and much more, paired with Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blancs, all perfectly suited for the fruits of the sea, still attracts local crowds nine months later.
Even if you’re in the company of friends who hate fish, you can bring them to Ciopinot; there’s something for everyone here. The small but good quality menu also offers great meat choices like filet mignon and New York strip. When my vegetarian sister-in-law Kelly Hardesty Ellis wanted pasta with sautéed veggies, they not only obliged, they created something special just for her. Now Cohen is responding to his regulars who’ve been asking all along, “When are you going to start serving lunch?” Ciopinot will be open for lunch from noon until 3 p.m. beginning Monday, Sept. 7. The restaurant will offer most of the menu served at dinner, and they’ve added some appealing sandwich specials. But do take note: it’s only open for lunch on Monday for now. If you really like it and hope to see lunch available more often, ask for Cohen, who’s usually there, and let him know.
UPSCALE LUNCH: Ciopino is open for dinner every night, and open for lunch on Monday only. It’s located at 1051 Nipomo St. in SLO. For reservations, call 547-1111.
“I’m the kind of guy who likes to say yes!” Cohen explained. “Everyone kept asking when we were going to open for lunch. I figured since I’m already there on Mondays to place food and wine orders, we might as well open for our customers. And we’ll be offering something different than what the other restaurants are offering.” Besides the tasty dishes locals already enjoyed there at dinner, Ciopinot will offer lunch specials. Cohen said he’ll offer: freshly-caught, wild salmon served over Caesar salad; a choice of fresh fish or shrimp in tacos or fajitas; sandwiches featuring fresh fish of the day; and a sandwich of blackened chicken with chipotle aioli. Sandwiches will be priced at $8 to $10.
Many upscale restaurants in downtown SLO are closed for lunch, which will make Ciopinot one of the few offering an upscale midday meal. It’s a great choice when you want to impress your business clients. After being open six months Cohen said he realized Monday is the ideal day to open for lunch. The retail shops around Ciopinot are closed Mondays, providing plenty of extra free parking with no time limits beside the restaurant. Just as it’s done at dinner, you can bring your own wine without a corkage fee, and you can order from the oyster bar menu or the dinner menu if that’s what you prefer. Check out the menu and photos of their cuisine at ciopinotrestaurant.com.
“We’re so open to what our customers want. If they want lunch, we’ll give it to them. If they tell us there’s something missing from the menu, we’ll add it for them,” Cohen concluded. “No matter what we add to the menu, it will be made of the best quality ingredients. This won’t be your miniature shrimp cocktail or fish taco.” ∆
You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org.