Monday, May 21 , 2018, 9:05 am | Mostly Cloudy 59º


New Executive Chef Brings New Flavor to Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore

Alessandro Cartumini flaunts a flair for Italian-inspired California coastal cuisine

Alessandro Cartumini has joined Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara as executive chef, bringing with him not only a seasoned history with the company, but also a fresh vision for the resort’s aptly named restaurant, Bella Vista (“beautiful view,” in Italian).

Alessandro Cartumini
Alessandro Cartumini

It’s a marriage befitting the Piemonte, Italy, native and the oceanfront eatery, which is characterized by a conspicuously warm and inviting Tuscan ambiance. In addition to heading up Bella Vista, Cartumini oversees all of the resort’s food services, including catering, 24-hour in-room dining, and refreshments at the pool and Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club.

Having most recently opened Quattro in Palo Alto, Cartumini has created a new culinary experience for diners in Santa Barbara that features California coastal cuisine with an Italian influence. His menus are built around a philosophy of creating uncomplicated, farm-to-table food that is perfectly flavored and, more importantly, accessible. Cartumini also places a heavy emphasis on putting community first, whether it’s by getting involved in farmers markets, buying from local farms and vendors, or working with local children to educate them on healthy dietary habits.

“Every dish should have something that’s different and unique — whether it’s the presentation or flavors — without being too weird,” Cartumini said. “I don’t believe in creating weird food; I like to keep it basic. There’s enough out there to make great food without having to alter things too much from their natural state. I just make them sing.”

At Bella Vista, Cartumini has created a symphony of signature dishes that incorporate local, seasonal ingredients, including herbs from the property’s own garden. Dinner options include a variety of fresh fish, meats and pastas, and vary each week based on what’s available and inspiring Cartumini. Current menu highlights include a crispy branzino sea bass with summer beans, and Sonoma lamb chops with peperonata, oregano and squash blossoms. Cartumini’s sausage ravioli — made with cherries, brown butter and sage — is legendary. For lunch, diners can enjoy a diverse selection of entrée salads and soups, sandwiches, show-stopping seafood, pastas and delicious pizzas — including a duck prosciutto pizza with fennel, Cypress Grove goat cheese and summer truffle.

Among the changes, the traditional bread basket has been swapped for rosemary-scented focaccia, freshly made in-house and served with a housemade oregano ricotta. Tempting, unpretentious desserts are fruit focused, such as warm caramel rosemary apricots. Despite these changes, Bella Vista’s devoted local following needn’t worry — several longtime favorites will remain, such as the ever-popular seafood Cobb salad.

Despite his obsession with fresh, handmade pasta, Cartumini insists his menus will remain distinctly Californian, capitalizing on the region’s bountiful seafood and produce. And while Italy is represented in some of his kitchen staples — such as his Grana Padano — he prefers to source most ingredients from close to home, including extra virgin olive oil produced in California.

“It’s the simplicity of the dishes that comes out as Italian,” Cartumini said. “It’s not the heavy traditional cuisine that most people think of, but more of a light approach to food with some Italian flavor profiles thrown in. The goal is well-balanced meals that will have people sleeping well and feeling great the next day.”

Indeed, Cartumini’s food is both health-conscious and palate pleasing, incorporating fresh, nutritious carbs, a variety of root vegetables and whole grains such as green faro. He strives to combine organic, sustainable ingredients in their purest forms, steering clear of butter and reaching for olive oil instead, and takes a sparing approach to sauces, keeping them light and broth-like.

Cartumini hopes the transition will bring about a more comfortable, casual atmosphere where guests can relax, enjoy the company of friends and family, and experience the pleasures of simple, beautifully prepared food in serene, picturesque surroundings. At the neighboring Ty Lounge, the resort’s lobby bar, Cartumini is already developing a loyal fan base with appetizers such as rock shrimp poppers with zucchini blossoms and chipotle lime dip, and goat cheese croquettes with grilled peaches. To what does he credit his success?

“I love having the ability to be creative,” Cartumini said, “but at the end of the day, it’s about giving people what they want.”

— Gena Downey is the director of public relations for the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.


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