Michelin-starred chef Massimo Falsini is focusing on hyper-local ingredients, including some of the world’s best seafood.
The Santa Barbara Saturday farmers market opens to the public at 8:30 a.m., but chef Massimo Falsini goes there at 8 a.m. sharp in search of the best and brightest ingredients. A recent Saturday was pleasantly sunny after weeks of intermittent rain, and it felt like winter was turning into spring.
“Mother Nature is waking up,” says Falsini, who is the executive chef at the new luxury resort in Montecito. “It’s ready to go. This morning, I picked up some beautiful violet artichokes from Root Down Farm. I’m going to do a burrata with some spicy sprouts and some artichokes. I’m making a savory marmalade with blood orange, just to show the passage, this shift.”
Falsini loves being a chef in California, especially during these moments when many things are changing at the local farms. He’s proud to be part of an on-the-rise Santa Barbara food community where he can walk around the market with chefs from restaurants like Bettina, Bibi Ji, and Convivio. At the market, his mind swirls with possibilities. Gaviota strawberries that are still green, for example, can be pickled and used in a salad.
Given that the highly anticipated Rosewood Miramar Beach includes seven restaurants and bars, it’s good that Falsini has a lot of inspiration. The hotel officially opened March 1, just a few days before the Michelin Guide announced a forthcoming statewide California guide, so it’s also good that Falsini previously ran the kitchen at the Solage resort’s Michelin-starred Solbar in Napa Valley. Falsini, who was raised in Rome and grew up butchering pigs in a family of charcutiers, once worked at Rome’s Michelin-starred Harry’s Bar. He’s never chosen a job to chase any kind of award, but he of course understands what it takes to earn a Michelin star.
“The most important thing is the personality of the chef in the menu,” Falsini says. “When the guests eat the food, they have to say, ‘This is Massimo cooking.’”
The restaurants at Rosewood Miramar Beach will give Falsini many opportunities to showcase his personality while celebrating hyper-local ingredients. He's working with Santa Barbara uni diver Stephanie Mutz and is elated to be at a location where he can serve some of the world’s best shellfish, like local prawns and Dungeness crab.
“Here, it’s a mecca,” Falsini says. “You can go to the harbor with all the small-boat fishermen and the divers and get really the freshest seafood. My biggest thing in Santa Barbara that I’m very passionate about is using the local seafood.”
Here’s a first look at Rosewood Miramar Beach’s restaurants and bars.
This charming Southern Italian hot , named after resort developer Rick Caruso, is an oceanfront destination that’s upstairs from the beach. Falsini, who clearly understands that Rosewood Miramar Beach abuts a residential community, wants Caruso’s to be a place where locals can walk over every day for a plate of pasta. This is about relatively accessible luxury, where $25 gets you a plate of tagliolini with local uni. For $22, you can see how Falsini brilliantly inverts the idea of carbonara by putting the guanciale inside agnolotti that’s topped with a yolky sauce and black truffle.
Other highlights at Caruso’s include delightfully crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside pinza, which is an ancient flatbread/pizza preparation that seems perfect for California in 2019 because it’s light in gluten and easy to digest.
“It’s technically a sourdough,” Falsini says. “It’s a very long fermentation.”
There’s less wheat than typical sourdough. The dough also includes soy and rice. This combination means that Falsini can put more water in the dough. The local buffalo mozzarella he uses for his pinza is from Double 8 Dairy, which is raising Italian water buffalo in Petaluma.
Much of the menu at Caruso’s, which includes a dazzling preparation of Rocky Canyon Farms chicken that involves rolling the dark meat and cooking it in a pan before finishing it in the oven, is about marrying classic technique, local ingredients, and modern presentation.
The playful desserts include tiramisu hidden inside a shell of sugar because Falsini wants guests to end their meals “with a spectacle.” There’s a “bellini” dessert that includes blood orange sorbet, citrus compote, and champagne. It’s a dinnertime treat that gives you the fresh flavor, pulpy texture, and pleasant chill of a beach-friendly brunch beverage. Falsini also serves $45 budino made with Johnnie Walker Blue Label, because Rick Caruso loves that whisky.
“One of the most important things about cooking and dining is that it’s an experience,” Falsini says. “You want to have fun. I think the fun part of the food is extremely important. I think it’s as important as the quality and the precision of the food and the service.”
Falsini plans to add a tasting menu at Caruso’s soon, and he’s also excited about his big plans for weekend brunch here. He wants brunch to include a chocolate bar with white-glove service. He’d like to have Mutz shucking uni on-site on Saturdays and Sundays.
Even in California, Helene Henderson stands out for her longtime commitment to farm-to-table cooking in a beachy setting. Rosewood Miramar Beach is an ideal location for an all-day Malibu Farm outpost with a gorgeous vegan chopped salad featuring beets, butternut squash, avocado, kale, romaine lettuce, and chickpeas in a red-wine vinaigrette. This is Santa Barbara, so you can start your meal with an uni shooter before you take down some cauliflower-crust pizza or Swedish-style lamb meatballs. If you order a seafood platter along with your açaí bowl or excellent chocolate croissant at brunch, you might get some plump, roe-filled prawns. Henderson attracts a celebrity clientele, and it makes sense for Malibu Farm to be in a hotel that also has a Goop sundries shop. Like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, Malibu Farm is about a lifestyle.
Miramar Beach Bar
This forthcoming oceanfront will be where you can start your day with a three-egg omelette featuring mornay sauce and caviar. Expect there to be a lot of champagne consumed here, and for that champagne to be accompanied by oysters, crudo, and poke bowls. You’re right by the water, so why not enjoy the bounty of the ocean?
Other options at Rosewood Miramar Beach for drinks and light bites include the Manor Bar, where we saw a big crowd of fashionable visitors from L.A. roll in for cocktails and live music last Friday night. The food at the Manor Bar includes Santa Barbara shrimp cocktail and Morro Bay oysters. Guests can eat and drink poolside at either the resort’s Cabana Bar or Scoop Shop. Beyond ice cream from Santa Barbara’s Rori’s Artisanal Creamery, which has a fantastic exclusive limoncello flavor at the resort, the Scoop Shop serves salads, fish tacos, ceviche, a double cheeseburger, and an Impossible burger. For afternoon tea or another place to sip champers, there’s the Living Room with views of the hotel’s great lawn and the water beyond.
, 1759 S. Jameson Lane, Montecito, CA, 805-900-8388