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Photos by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.
Isla Vista’s newest eatery, Sorriso Italiano, is looking to serve up local residents and UCSB students with the heartiest, most authentic Italian food possible. Owner Antonio Gerli said the restaurant’s wide array of traditional dishes are all homemade and prepared daily.
“There’s no other Italian food around here, so I wanted to give real Italian food,” Gerli said. “We prepare everything fresh, and we don’t have a freezer.”
While the restaurant offers a fresh and contemporary feel, complete with sleek chairs imported from Italy and hand-painted floors, its offering of dishes mostly sticks to the traditional. The menu includes a lot of old favorites — everything from Eggplant Parmesan and Fettuccine Alfredo to Bolognese Lasagna and Caprese Salad — and alongside all the culinary offerings is a generous wine list (the only one in I.V.) and select beers.
But Sorriso Italiano doesn’t skip out on less conventional culinary choices, serving healthy options like whole wheat pasta and gluten free pasta, as well as a unique dessert called the “Sweet Sorriso,” which is basically a flaky calzone pocket filled with Nutella or fresh berries preserve.
Gerli, who is originally from Italy, said he and his family moved to the United States specifically to establish the new eatery, as he had dreamt of building a restaurant beside a college campus in California. After flying to San Francisco, he toured college campuses around the state, such as Stanford, Berkeley and campuses in Los Angeles and San Diego. He initially visited UCSB on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but after returning to the campus a second time and discovering I.V., Gerli said he knew Santa Barbara was the spot for his new business.
“When I came back through the main entrance, I saw many, many bicycles go in one direction, so I followed them,” Gerli said. After making his way across campus and through Pardall Tunnel, Gerli said that was when he found Isla Vista, “I said ‘Wow’ … ‘Okay, I got it. I want to open a restaurant here.’”
For Gerli, the little “island” of Isla Vista, as he calls it, is the perfect home for his new restaurant.
“I fell in love with this place.”
This article appeared on page 6 in the the Wednesday, October 3, 2013 print edition of the Nexus.