MexItalian getting recast as Focaccia
MexItalian, the fusion restaurant in Midtown Santa Cruz, is picking a side: Italy.
Starting next week, the year-old Water Street eatery will be known as Focaccia, a sit-down Italian restaurant specializing in under-$20 pizzas and pastas.
"The feedback has been that people want more of a full-service restaurant," said Focaccia staffer Dylan Stanic.
A new drinks menu will offer local wine and beer, Stanic said, and the entrees will have a local and organic focus as well.
Oaxaca native Fernando Vasquez and Jean-Pierre Iuliano, who grew up in southern Italy, opened MexItalian in October 2011.
Focaccia's grand opening will be Dec. 7. Call 425-1213 for hours.
Now open and serving 'em up: burger.aptos
Aptos now has its own branch of burger. The casual eatery debuted in 2010 on Santa Cruz's Westside.
The new eatery, burger.aptos, had a soft opening Tuesday night. The restaurant is taking over the former home of Verve Lounge at 7941 Soquel Drive. Visit burgeraptos.com.
Alfaro winery lands spot on Travel Channel show
A film crew from The Travel Channel paid a recent visit to Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery in Corralitos. Billy Leroy, host of the show "Baggage Battles," called on the expertise of winemaker Richard Alfaro to evaluate a mystery box of wines purchased on the show at A&A Auction Gallery in Santa Cruz.
The episode is expected to air on The Travel Channel in the coming months.
Clam Chowder cook-off seeks contestants
Registration is now open for the 32nd annual Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook-Off and Festival, which returns Feb. 23 to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Contestants registered by Jan. 18 will receive a pair of Unlimited Ride passes to the Boardwalk and two official event T-shirts.
A panel of judges will determine the Best Manhattan and Best Boston Clam Chowders in both Individual and Professional categories. People's Choice and Most Tasted Clam Chowder awards will also be given. Prizes include airline tickets, cash, wall plaques and bragging rights.
The team entry fee is $50, $75 for cooking professionals. For details, call 420-5273 or visit www.beachboardwalk.com/clamchowder.
Proceeds benefit the city of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department. Last year's event attracted more than 70 entries and thousands of chowder fans, raising around $70,000 for Parks and Recreation programs.
Seascape to highlight Central Coast wines
Wine Wednesday is coming to Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. Starting next week, the Aptos restaurant will pair a different local wine with a special appetizer plate from Chef de Cuisine Boris Illbaca.
The event, 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays, is meant to promote mingling between locals and visitors, said Sanderlings wine hostess Sally Locke-Paddon.
Seascape Beach Resort is at 1 Seascape Resort Drive. Call 662-7120 or visit www.sanderlingsrestaurant.com.
Boat parade lights up Johnny's Harborside
Johnny's Harborside is offering a pair of special prix-fixe dinner seatings during Saturday's annual Lighted Boat Parade, which will be visible from the dining room of the Santa Cruz harbor restaurant.
Guests seated at 5 p.m. will have their tables for two and a half hours while being served a four-course dinner with an entree choice of nut-crusted mahimahi, pan-roasted steelhead, shrimp and crab enchiladas, chicken breast or flat-iron steak. The second seating, at 7:45 p.m., follows the parade and will offer items from the prix-fixe dinner a la carte as well as a limited regular dinner menu.
For reservations, call 479-3430 or visit www.johnnysharborside.com. Johnny's is at 493 Lake Ave. Children's menus will also be available.
Champagne next up at Surf City University
Equinox Champagne Cellar is hosting a Champagne Tasting and Appreciation Class from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at its tasting room in Santa Cruz. Winemaker Barry Jackson will demystify how sparkling wine is made and offer samples of different styles.
The event is part of Surf City Wine University, a series of wine appreciation classes taught by the master winemakers of the Surf City Vintners, a group of wineries in close proximity in Westside Santa Cruz. Upcoming classes include Wine Tasting 101 with Michael Sones of Sones Cellars (Jan. 13) and Iberian Wines of Spain and Portugal with Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard/Quinta Cruz (Feb. 10).
Sunday's class is $30 per person. Club members of any of the Surf City wineries pay $25 each. To register, visit www.surfcityvintners.com. Equinox is at 427-C Swift St., Santa Cruz.
Homemade pasta, more on menu at Let's Cook!
The recreational cooking school Let's Cook! in Soquel has a homemade ravioli class on tap 6-9 p.m. Saturday. Mike Ruyman will lead students in making pasta dough, seasonal fillings and complementary sauces.
Chef Eric Carter will be at the school 6:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 6 for Sauces 101, which will cover the five mother sauces and a few of their variations.
On Dec. 8, a pizza-making class with Marisa Johnston will offer students a chance to learn how to make artisan pies at home, from crust to customized toppings. The class runs 6-9 p.m.
Each class is $65 per person. Let's Cook! is at 2880 Research Park Drive. Call 419-2747 or visit www.letscooksantacruz.com.
Hula's tips the hat to Boys and Girls Club
Monday diners at Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room this month will see a portion of their bill go toward a local nonprofit. The Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz will receive 10 percent Monday sales as part of the downtown Santa Cruz restaurant's Mahalo Monday program.
The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Cruz, which serves youth ages 6 to 18, is the only youth service organization in the greater Santa Cruz area providing after-school drop-in programs five days a week. For more information, visit www.boysandgirlsclub.info.
Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room is at 221 Cathcart St. in Santa Cruz. Monday hours are 4 p.m. to close. Call 426-HULA or visit www.hulastiki.com.
Quick Bites, your weekly helping of Santa Cruz County restaurant and food news, is compiled by local food writer Laura Copeland. Contact her at email@example.com. Want local food and wine news as it happens? Follow the Sentinel's food crew on Twitter, @santacruzfood.