I’ve seen plenty of restaurants that have an herb garden or grow some greens on a back patio, but until now, I’ve not come across one locally that has its own farm. That’s the case at Bistro West and West Steak and Seafood where Executive Chef Eugenio Martignago has access to a full one acre farm two miles from his restaurants in Carlsbad that supplies both restaurants with most of their seasonal produce. They decide what is planted, and are able to plan their menus based on what they know will be in season. What a treat it must be for a chef to have that at their disposal.Executive Chef Eugenio runs the Kitchens at both Bistro West and West Steak and Seafood. Chef Martignago was born and raised in Musano, a small town just outside of Venice, Italy. He grew up on a on a farm so the West farm is nothing new to him. After graduating from Scuala Alberghiera di Venezia culinary school in Italy, Martignago’s passion for refining his cooking style led him to Germany and France where he cooked alongside some of the finest chefs in the world. He has worked in at Nick’s Fish Market and the Black Orchid in Honolulu and Bistango in Orange County and Los Angeles. Martignago is known for demonstrating his creativity in the kitchen by often planting particular vegetables with a menu special in mind. True to his childhood passion, Martignago works in the farm each day and brings an authentic farm-to-table experience to both restaurants. Bringing a French and Italian influence to his menus, Martignago describes his cooking style as a collage of his culinary experiences from around the world.
Chef Jason Connolly heads up the kitchen at Bistro West and is responsible for the daily execution of Martignago’s menu. Chef Connolly trained at the California Culinary
Academy and cooked at Delfina Restaurant in San Francisco. Their combined efforts at Bistro West result in what they call contemporary comfort food, all made from scratch, with French and Italian influences in a relaxed yet elegant setting. It is quite a nice environment that is difficult to describe but it’s a beautiful space.
I will start off with the best bruschetta I’ve ever had. It was new to the menu that day and featured fresh mozzarella cheese. When I say fresh, I mean made just after you order fresh so it comes out in this soft, yet pliable texture that is melt-in-your-mouth good. It’s presented tableside by the server with lightly toasted bread, and a separate plate with fresh from the farm heirloom tomatoes. Tear the bread, add the mozzarella and tomato then dip it in the olive oil surrounding the tomatoes. The combination of flavors, textures, and fresh ingredients blew me away. Go get this dish now!
Next up was a zucchini flower risotto with a mushroom base that was cooked perfectly and one of the more elegant risottos in memory. I should mention that I was dining with my Italian friend Pia Giambrone and both the bruschetta and risotto were proclaimed delightful and she has a discriminating palate. The risotto is not always on the menu but you can ask for it if it’s not. Since it is not a quick dish to prepare, I’d suggest ordering it early on. We then sampled another special, the halibut with local corn, kiwi potatoes, on a fig leaf and a light cream sauce. Again, it was simple, full of flavor and great textures.
Dessert was next and we went with the Panna Cotta with local strawberries. They paired it expertly with a glass of Stella Rosa, a fun, sweet rose sparkler that is fresh and playful on the palate.
I came back for lunch the next day to try the Montanara pizza that Chef Martignago suggested. It’s an old-school Naples technique of giving the crust a quick fry in olive oil before topping it with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and chili flakes. It gives the dough a unique fried crisp that is worth trying.
Bistro West has a big menu with something for everyone on it. Right now is a good time to visit as they are reaping the bounty of their summer crops.
4960 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad
Lunch: Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m.; Saturday at noon.
Dinner: Sunday through Thursday 3:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday through Saturday 3:30 to 10 p.m.