I’m sitting at the “money table,” and by time we’re done eating, I feel rich… with food, that is. Here in Half Moon Bay, one of the newer kids on Main Street is Fattoria e Mare. Opened in 2021, Fattoria e Mare is contributing to the community with lip-smacking Italian fare emphasizing local ingredients and fresh seafood.
The restaurant, meaning farm and sea, whisks you to Italy for the duration of your meal. The spacious surroundings, with vaulted ceilings, paintings of Venice, handmade wood and resin tables, and menu of choice Italian wines, . Here in this little Italy, tell yourself to indulge without guilt in a galaxy of appies, entrees, pizzas, seafoods, and desserts.
During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, chef and owner Pablo Estrada kept the staff on site, and they decided to make a few tables. He made two gorgeous resin and wood tables, one for dining and the other serves as an extra-long coffee table. We sat at the dining table with a resin center bisecting the wood. The resin was filled with money bills, and hence the name, “money table.”
That aside, Pablo is a Bay Area chef renowned in his own right. His resume spans sites such as Lulu, Campton Place, Rose Pistola and many others. He opened Fattoria e Mare in 2014 in Burlingame on Highway 101, and relocated here recently bringing a familiar team with him. It’s a casual ambiance where many a tourist will saunter in just because of the delectable aromas wafting onto the street.
But let’s get down to business. What to order?
For openers, we recommend the butter lettuce salad with slivered peach, Italian goat cheese, and candied walnuts, and a light vinaigrette dressing. It is such a symphony of tangy, savory, and sweet, dear reader, that the photo just does not do it justice. I wish I were sitting next to you to plunge a forkful of this into your mouth. The butter lettuce is grown in Half Moon Bay and is chock full of just-from-the-farm freshness. Never thought lettuce had such a distinct flavor, but when it comes almost immediately uprooted, it does. Pair that with a white wine (ask for the Soave), and you’ll be in heaven. A memorable appetizer of seared octopus is served on a bed of fava beans and greens. The octopus was not rubbery, and featured a nice chew texture. I did not feel like I had to saw through it.
For our starter, Chef Pablo carted out a giant wheel of cheese, and then proceeded to dollop a hot pile of house-made noodles on top. With the cheese melting and bonding with the pasta, the chef swirled and swirled it around the white wheel of cheese flecked with black pepper corns. Draping the noodles on our plates, we ate with gusto. No disappointment here. The cheese was already melted and fused to the al dente pasta with that bite of peppercorn in the aftertaste. Michael, our waiter, told us that when people see this dish being made from the doorway, they come in just to experience it themselves.
Next – the unique fig pizza (dubbed The Bianca) with shaved fennel and bacon and gorgonzola is not to be missed. A thin crust, tomato sauce and just the right amount of cheese was so tantalizing we couldn’t stop eating. I would come just to order this pizza again.
Chef next trotted out a giant tray of seafood and fish. Remember that first photo? Branzino fish, jumbo prawns, super big slices of calamari, giant day boat scallops, and mussels – these were just so impressive in visual appeal , enormous size, and bold taste. Perfectly grilled as only a master chef can execute, the seafood blended well and items were not overpowered by too many spices. A grilled lemon was set on the plate for us to squeeze and drizzle as much as we wanted.
Chef Pablo also happens to be the in-house pastry chef. We sampled the cheesecake served with gel candy strips, a lava cake with rice pudding with in-house made yogurt, and fluffy panna cotta. Hands down the favorite among these was the chocolate lava cake oozing with melted chocolate featuring several types of dark chocolate that would send any sweet tooth zooming to the moon with euphoria. But it was pretty much a toss up with that panna cotta which was a decadent, lighter treat.
Are you hankering for a taste of Italy? Incredible seafood? A date night destination? One visit to Fattoria e mare in Half Moon Bay will turn you into a regular. Bon appetit!
Fattoria e Mare
315 Main Street
Half Moon Bay