Last week I told you that the restless, talented chef Giovanni Di Maio (formerly of the splendid Bella Napoli) was now cooking at Il Pirata in Capitola. He is. I went there for my birthday dinner. Dean Martin crooning “Ritorn’a me” and a very amiable waitress greeting us, we were optimistic. Here’s the deal — and I hope you can help me out here. What do you do with a gifted chef in an unpromising location?
Di Maio can cook, as evidenced by a brilliantly sauced (rosemary and pomegranate) lamb sirloin with potatoes, and picture perfect penne with overly-breaded but delicious meatballs. However, the setting is impoverished. A location on the Esplanade usually works best if it’s either seafood intensive or has a full bar. Winter in a resort town is grim any way you slice it. But frankly the dirty windows, cheap servingware and paper placemats over burgundy linens added absolutely nothing in the way of atmosphere. Di Maio deserves a following, but I just don’t think he can attract one in lackluster surroundings.
All of my complaints can be easily fixed. But it would take a management willing to pump some money into the place, refresh its interior decor and lose the stupid name. Would you take a place called “Il Pirata” (the pirate – waterfront – get it?) seriously?