New Cuisine

Posted online: February 2014


by GINA Z. TERLINDEN  photographs by STEVEN HONG

In the past year or so, the Santa Ynez Valley has welcomed several new restaurants. The most buzzed about is the reopening of the beloved Mattei’s Tavern, 805-688-3550,, in Los Olivos. After purchasing the building, new owners Charles and Ali Banks along with partner/co-owners Robbie Wilson and his wife, Emily, helmed the historic spot, which offers a then-and-now menu of items such as beef tartar—a popular dish from the late 1800s—along with contemporary cuisinesuch as grilled avocado with ponzu and fresh wasabi. Stop by for a bite on Thursday evenings when the outdoor pizza oven is fired up.

Around the corner in Los Olivos, former Mattei’s proprietors Matt and Jeff Nichols opened Sides Hardware and Shoes805-688-4820,, popular for its modern take on American staples. And over in Santa Ynez last November, the duo also opened their new steak house, Brothers at the Red Barn, 805-688-4142, brothersredbarn .com, their fourth eatery to grace the valley since they started out in Solvang in 1996. “Jeff and I are incredibly proud to have two locations with wonderful stories and history,” says Matt. “We want our community to treasure the traditions of our past and build some new ones together for the next generation. We’re blessed to live here and cook food we want our guests to enjoy with great wines produced by our neighbors and friends. It’s what we love to do.”


After years of treating the valley as a second home, Kathie and Mike Gordon—owners of the 25-year-old Brentwood eatery Toscana—decided to open S.Y. Kitchen Cucina Rustica, 805-691-9794,, along with Italian-born chef Luca Crestanelli last year. “We all believed the valley was ripe for something new,” says Kathie. “When we found the right place at the right time, well, what choice did we have?” There—in the front room, dining room, or porch of the charming farmhouse—diners can spend the evening lingering over warm octopus salad with leek, potatoes, taggiasca olives, and green beans followed by a wood-fired pizza or hearty dish of wild mushroom pappardelle with thyme and parmigiano, paired with a bottle of Italian or local wine, of course.

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