Old Fisherman’s Wharf is swarming with great seafood restaurants; each one having their own vibe and unique twists on Monterey Bay specialties like clam chowder, calamari and sand dabs. Paluca Trattoria located at the start of the wharf is no exception, their waterfront location and Italian cuisine certainly sets them apart from similar eateries down the competitive row.
Paluca Trattoria is located in the maroon storefront home to Balesteri’s Wharf Store, just across from the withered wooden “Old Fisherman’s Wharf” sign. Do not let the United States and French flags fool you; stepping into Paluca Trattoria is like stepping into a quaint café in Italy.
Their outdoor dining area offers one the best views on the wharf with colorful sailboats bobbing about in the harbor while playful sea lions splash below. Several large umbrellas are set along the deck to shade diners at the granite tabletops.
The interior is just as cozy and resembles a modest Sicilian villa scattered with nautical touches and bright fresh flowers.
Before taking a look at the menu owner/chef Sal Tedesco introduced himself and the day’s lunch specials which included sand dabs over a Caesar salad. Sal mentioned that his specials change daily and all of his seafood is locally sourced from nearby fisherman.
Sal’s Sicilian roots are evident in his menu selection with a variety of ingredients including olive oil, garlic, pesto and white wine danced over the page. The pasta selection was especially impressive with everything from gamberoni, pasta palermo to gnocchi.
The table started with a variety of appetizers including bruschetta. Toasted and buttered slices of bread came out with a heaping amount of fresh tomatoes, basil and Romano cheese. The burst of juiciness from the tomato mixture was fantastic paired with the crunchiness of the bread.
The pesto calamari was particularly intriguing and certainly unique to the wharf. Tubes and tentacles came out with a delightful pesto breadcrumb; this dish was so delicious I don’t think we even touched the accompanied tarter sauce.
The puttanesca sauce on the Sicilian shrimp was a hit! Large chunks of prawns, garlic, capers and olives were immersed in a thick red tomato sauce. My fellow diners and I were taking dibs on who would be first to lick the plate clean.
After so many starters the trattoria salad hit the spot. Fresh mixed greens were topped with candied walnuts, dried cranberries and blue cheese dressed in Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. The chicken was juicy and the rosemary seasoning gave it a unique savory quality.
Battling a food coma I opted for an Italian espresso over dessert. This was not your average watered-down espresso, this was an authentic Lavazza espresso served with a pistachio biscotti. You can even order this with a side of vanilla bean ice cream, known as an Affogato.
This tucked away gem is great for business lunches, family reunions and even pets. They also offer special wine dinners three to four times throughout the year. Cheers!
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As the Content Marketing Manager at the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Allyson manages digital marketing and social media for SeeMonterey. If she's not taking scenic pictures around the county, you are likely to find her on the Monterey Bay Coastal Rec Trail, sipping wine in Carmel Valley, or hiking in Big Sur.