Nestled on the corner of Coast Village Road and Olive Mill Road on the ground floor of the Montecito Inn, Coast & Olive aims to be the upscale yet approachable restaurant that nearby residents have wanted for years.
Run by the brothers Jason, Jim, and Danny Copus, Coast & Olive occupies the space previously held by the Montecito Café and The Monarch. The Copus family has owned the Montecito Inn since 1989, but this is the first time that they’ve taken the restaurant into their own hands.
“Although we’re sure people from everywhere will enjoy Coast & Olive, we’ve geared our restaurant to please the tastes of our locals,” Jason said. “Over countless conversations, we’ve listened to guests and learned what locals truly desire from their experience at the Montecito Inn. We are confident that Coast & Olive will provide the experience they crave.”
Farmers’ market fare, fresh fish, and seasonal specials fill the menu. Each item — such as the summer stone fruit salad with butter lettuce, apricot, hazelnut, goat cheese crumble, and honey thyme balsamic vinaigrette — sings of Santa Barbara. The brains, brawn, and heart behind this California cuisine is Chef Vicente Torres, who previously worked at The Nook, Birnam Wood Golf Club, and elsewhere.
“I take a little bit from everywhere I go,” said Torres, who is humble yet self-assured with a charismatic nature that would suit the front of the house just as well as the kitchen. “I don’t look for a Michelin star. I just cook to make people happy.”
Whether digging into an appetizer of pistachio gremolata with goat cheese, fried capers, and arugula on a bed of baby kale or the butter-like scallops served atop a flavorful saffron risotto, serotonin levels were high throughout my whole meal.
Their handsome selection of cocktails, wines, and beers will get diners on the happy train as well. Those menus were whipped up by general manager David Shinn, who features such signature beverages as “The Mamba,” a vibrant concoction of Empress 1908 gin, lemon, simple syrup, and passionfruit foam providing a purple and yellow hue in homage to the late Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant. Shinn relied on his experience as assistant division manager for Young’s Market Company to build a wine list, with such gems as Tooth & Nail’s new red blend from Paso Robles and crisp sauvignon blanc from Sancerre in France. Microbrew taps rotate regularly, most recently offering the crisp Czech pilsner by Draughtsmen.
The decor is simple yet sophisticated, with bright flowers atop each table, allowing for the mountain views and ocean air of Coast Village to do the talking. Explained Jason of the easy-breezy vibe, “You can make it casual dining or go out for a fancy weekend meal.” It’s evident that the Copus brothers have grown up in the hotel and hospitality industry, as their service oozes easy warmth and grace with every interaction.
For dessert, try the Meyer lemon tart with Ojai Valley honey, homemade meringue, and thinly sliced apricots. I can’t wait to try the Galvin Farms peach tart, which recently snagged a spot on the menu.
The restaurant also serves brunch on the weekends, with a little bit for everyone. There’s a Greek yogurt and granola bowl with avocado honey, a California niçoise salad, and a Snake River Farms burger dripping with Gruyère cheese.
During our chat, I asked Jason of his hopes for the new space. As he looked out on the bustling parklet full of joyful diners sipping signature martinis and sharing tasty bites, he smiled. “I think our hopes are already happening,” he said. “We can’t ask for anything better.”
1295 Coast Village Rd., Montecito; (805) 690-3920; coastandolive.com.