As the Ca’ Dario staff at the Dario Furlati at 37 E. Victoria Street in Santa Barbara were doing their early morning rituals to prepare for their lunch patrons, as I took a close look at all the photos and wine in the wall racks while waiting to speak with chef/owner Dario Furlati about his recent opening of Ca’ Dario Trattoria & Pizzeria, located a few minutes down State Street in Goleta. I have exchanged hello’s with the renowned Italian chef for years at area fund raisers, but it was a pleasure to learn first hand of his life in Italy and America as well as his new dining adventure.


Dario Furlati learned to cook from his grandmothers, one in Lake Como and one near Venice, Italy. He had a keen interest in food preparation, and in Como the seafood became fine risotto dishes, and when in Venice he became adept at hunting, as well as cleaning and preparing favorite recipes from these family hunts in the woods. No small wonder his menu at Ca’ Dario includes uniquely delicious game and fowl items.
A favorite on his menu is an amazing Banzino, whole grilled fish, scaled and centered on the serving plate between the head and tail. “Risotto and pasta dishes including his Ravioli Al Burro E Salvia (small pasta pillows filled with spinach & ricotta cheese and covered with brown butter & sage sauce) were developed over time,” said Dario. These delicious bites of Italian heaven are a favorite of countless local residents and tourists visiting in Santa Barbara, including this wandering food writer.


Dario worked as an assistant chef in the kitchen of my favorite hotel Villa d’Este in Como before meeting his wife Jackie, and traveled to Switzerland and England to enhance his culinary skills. Following his work in Europe at various restaurants in 1985 Dario decided to try his hand in the US and came to Los Angeles, where he had quite a following at Prego, Pane e Vino, Ca Brea, Chianti, and soon began traveling to Santa Barbara to work.
Chef Dario is considered by many in Santa Barbara to serve the best Italian cuisine in the community, and possibly LA as well. I have been told on many occasions by the Italian Tourism Directors in Los Angels that they consider his dishes the finest in California. He has run a very successful restaurant business for the past 15 years in a location that was previously the Cafe Buenos Aires, and he brings authentic old world favorites such as Osso buco and Tagliatelle Bolognese to life in a traditional Italian atmosphere that is reminiscent of so many charming trattoria’s throughout Italy.


It was 15 years ago Dario began his career in Santa Barbara when in 1988 in Montecito’s Upper Village, where he was the head chef at Pane e Vino, and later involved with a number of Montecito eateries including as an owning of Via Vai and co-owner of Tre Lune with Montecito restaurateur Gene Montesano. He was also former owner of Santa Barbara eateries Bucatini and Enoteca Primo, and now with the opening of this new location is heading west to offer new Italian meal choices to families in Goleta and the surrounding area. Fast forward to 2018, the impresario of Italian flavors has now opened Ca’ Dario Cucina Italiana at 250 Storke Road, near the corner of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue in Goleta, next to the French Press.
On first impression it seemed large and a bit retro in comparison to our romantic little artistic Victoria location, however, the longer I was there the more I liked it. The openness, especially the open kitchen to allow guests to watch the chefs at work is sensational, and is generally a given in restaurants throughout Italy. I found the noise levels to be subtle, affording easy conversations with family. The light fixtures hanging over the dinner tables are duplicates of those hanging at Victoria, the general ambiance seems the same despite the modern visuals, the excellent service is a duplicate experience, and the bar offers larger accommodations to meet with friends before dinner.


The bottom line is all that really matters at Ca’ Dario Cucina Italiana is that the food is the same amazing Italian Ca’ Dario cuisine everyone loves – and it is! From appetizers to entrees to amazing desserts it’s all good. The steak with rosemary and Italian beans was perfectly cooked, and served with delicious grilled beets, potatoes and spinach. The signature stuffed artichoke was overflowing with cheese and tomatoe goodness, and perfect with the Alma Rosa Pinot Noir. Looking over the menu it is obvious Dario and his culinary team are striving to give new and loyal patrons the tastes and flavors they love in plates that totally please.
I thank Dario for sharing his life story with me over a cup of delicious coffee, and wish him enormous success with his latest culinary brain-child. Everyone in our community loves this generous and talented chef who never misses an opportunity to share his primo tastes to raise funds for worthy charities in Santa Barbara.
This latest venture is obviously an ideal location for many business’ and families in the Goleta, and I’m confident fans of the Victoria location will take the short drive to enjoy the casual and comfortable ambiance, the feel of familia from the servers, along with the delicious food and beverage selections they have come to love at Ca’ Dario on Victoria Street, including some exceptional wines from California and Italy. The important difference in these two excellent dining venues is the ample and easy parking in Goleta. Ca’ Dario Cucina Italiana is open Monday through Saturday, Closed Sunday. Mangia Bene! For information or reservations (805) 884-9419.
By Bonnie Carroll