The Let’s Go Eat Team recently spent two days exploring the culinary mysteries — and masteries — of Los Alamos, and one of the absolute highlights was the fresh, interesting and lively Pico, right in the heart of town.
“The food here is made with love and fresh to order,” co-owner Will Henry said. “We’re not trying to be fancy, just putting great locally sourced food on the plate.”
It doesn’t hurt that twice in the past few years, Pico, at 458 Bell St., has been named one of the Top 100 Wine restaurants in the United States by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
The inspiration for both the food and the wine, Henry told us, comes from his father, the late businessman and philanthropist Warner Henry.
“I think that has influenced the menu here at Pico a lot.”
During our visit there, we enjoyed the Market Salad and the Roasted Beets, followed by the Pork Tri-Tip and the Steak Frites. Paired with some Stolpman La Croce Syrah/Sangiovese Blend and we felt decidedly casual and relaxed afterward.
Henry and his wife and co-owner, Kali Kopley, met at a wine tasting event near Lake Tahoe while Henry was working for his father’s Henry Wine Group.
Henry, who worked, among other things, as a photojournalist before joining his father’s business, decided in 2012 that what he really wanted to do with his life was make his own wine, Pinot Noir to be specific.
So he left the family business and moved to Santa Barbara.
“I saw Santa Barbara as being the coolest place to do that,” Henry said, and meeting the pinot czarina Lane Tanner, “was a huge stroke of good fortune.”
Together, Tanner and Henry own Lumen Wines, which has a tasting room immediately adjacent to Pico.
In an effort to convince Kopley that Los Alamos could be the place for them, he brought her down from Lake Tahoe for a few days of exploring, back when the town was little more than a motel and gas stop.
“She said, ‘are you sure you want to open something here?’” Henry told us, laughing. “We met Jamie Gluck (the former owner of Bell Street Farm, now Bell’s at 406 Bell St.) one night, and he shared his vision for the kind of foodie destination the town could become.”
“Kali went from ‘What the hell are you thinking,’ to ‘You’re a genius’ in two days,” he told us.
So they bought a building on Bell Street, the old Los Alamos General Store, and decided to open a wine-focused restaurant.
First they needed a name.
In 2016 Pico opened for business (no Zorro masks required).
“Our daughter was born just one month before,” Henry said, “and we were still painting and putting up wine racks the day before the grand opening.
“My wife had done this many times before, and she told me, ‘no problem, we’ll be ready’, and she was right of course.”
“We give our people a lot of creative freedom,” Henry said, which is evident in both the food, and the interesting and unique cocktails and wine.
At Pico, Henry said, the team emphasizes local sourcing of ingredients.
“We want people to know the quality and care that goes into absolutely every bite they’re taking, and know the ingredients are coming from a farm just down the road,” he said.
Seeing as Santa Barbara is also just down the road, repeated and frequent visits are definitely in our plans.
When you call to make reservations, ask about the “Chef’s Experience,” which chef Cameron Ingle will occasionally do upon request if he’s inspired by whatever is seasonally available.
Also, keep an eye out for local winemakers dining there. You may find yourself treated to an impromptu tasting event.
When You Go
Pico Los Alamos, at 458 Bell St., is open for dinner from 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and for brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.
Click here to make reservations online, or call 805.344.1122.