July 28, 2020 – Don’t be fooled by the modern look of Tutto Buono Eataliano—a new fast casual concept that took over for Nancy Dean’s Kitchen in New Monterey. The Italian eatery isn’t so much a new arrival, but a return of a beloved old favorite.
Here at the corner of Lighthouse and Hoffman, sisters Geralynn and Michelle Spadaro are starting a new chapter for Tutto Buono, a fixture of downtown Monterey in the ‘90s.
In 1991, Geralynn Spadaro opened the original Tutto Buono on Alvarado Street with her then-husband John Aiello. The concept started as an upscale Italian market and deli, but evolved into a full-service Italian restaurant.
Tutto Buono became a family affair. “Eventually, we all became involved, the whole family together, a couple years after they opened,” Michelle recalls.
And the Spadaro family, of course, was no stranger to restaurants.
Vito—Geralynn and Michelle’s father—had nearly 30 years of experience running restaurants in Monterey, including Kit Kat Cafe on Alvarado and The Driftwood—which would go on to become The Cannery and then Spadaro’s—at the Spindrift Inn on Cannery Row. And Geralynn and Michelle’s late brother John “Spud” Spadaro owned and operated the popular Spado’s in Salinas. The annual John “Spud” Spadaro hospitality awards dinner and scholarship fund honor his legacy.
“We all worked for our family business at a young age,” Michelle recalls. “Probably too young now, but we were cheap labor at the time,” she adds, laughing.
With Geralynn helming the kitchen and Michelle and her other siblings helping out too, the family’s restaurant found a fierce following for brick oven pizza, Caesar salad and pasta Bolognese. It was a fixture of downtown Monterey until it closed in 2003.
Fast forward 16 years and the Tutto Buono brand found a new life last year, when Michelle Spadaro started Tutto Buono Catering, offering personal chef and catering services.
Now, she and her sister Geralynn have teamed up to bring Tutto Buono to a new generation of gourmands with the debut of a brick-and-mortar business in New Monterey. As general manager, Michelle oversees operations and Geralynn returns to the kitchen as executive chef.
“Realizing that it was hard to find a place in Monterey with Sicilian pan pizzas and street food, my vision started to come to life,” explains Michelle. Italian street food—rooted in three generations of family recipes—is the focus for the new restaurant. “Our inspiration comes from our Sicilian roots and growing up in the kitchen with my parents and grandmothers enjoying delicious Sicilian food made with lots of love.”
The sisters draw inspiration from their local roots too, with ingredients sourced from Monterey County farmers. “It’s so important to buy local, and we’re working with local farms to source quality ingredients. Buying organic, sustainable and local is part of our mission,” emphasizes Michelle.
The concept is fast casual, but with thoughtful attention to details of food and service as you’d expect from veterans of the hospitality industry. “I come from a background of a high level of service and quality,” says Michelle. “Even if we’re a casual restaurant, we want to make people feel like they’re coming into our home.”
Pizza and sandwiches anchor the menu.
The pizza is Sicilian pan-style—square pies with a golden crust and a fluffy focaccia-like crumb inside—available by the slice or pan. Selections include classics like Margarita ($5 slice, $22 pan) and Romina pepperoni ($5.50 slice, $23 pan), plus house specialties like Nonna’s loaded with veggies ($5.50 slice, $24 pan), Vito’s with clams and garlic ($5.50 slice, $26 pan) and Frankie’s with pepperoni, fennel sausage and mushrooms ($6 slice, $28 pan). The Ma Please ($6 slice, $28 pan) is Michelle’s favorite, “Prosciutto and arugula? To me, it’s like heaven!”
Michelle expects piadina flatbread sandwiches will become Tutto Buono Eataliano’s signature.
“I’m always trying foods and researching trends—it’s a constant love of mine—and I started playing with this piadina flatbread and I loved it,” she says. “It’s not from Sicily, but it’s become one of the most popular street foods in Italy. It’s not found anywhere around here that I know of.”
The warm flatbread wraps come in six combinations, including a pair of vegetarian options—Caprese ($8.95) and Providenza eggplant ($8.95)—and the Spud’s Mambo that riffs on the Italian muffaletta ($11.95). “I like them all, I can’t lie,” says Michelle. But she admits the Milanese with panko-crusted chicken ($10.95) is her favorite, “We grew up with breaded chicken, it’s always been one of my favorite things. I love the crust on it and then you get the pepperoncini that adds that little zest to it.” The Capo—stuffed with fried calamari and romaine lettuce tossed with Geralynn’s famous Caesar salad dressing ($9.95)—has also proven a popular pick.
Snacks like arancini—rice stuffed with meat, cheese and peas, then lightly crisped outside (three for $7.50)—and fried polenta sticks with tomato basil sauce for dipping ($5.30) are must orders. Soup, salads and rotating specials round out the menu, and save room for biscotti ($1.75) or cannoli ($6) for dessert.
Tutto Buono Eataliano occupies the space vacated by Nancy Dean’s Kitchen at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (And while Nancy Dean’s Kitchen may have shuttered as a brick-and-mortar restaurant, chef Joseph Talley has gone mobile with his 831 Catering company now appearing at local events with plans for a food truck in the future.)
Adjustments for the continuing coronavirus crisis are evident.
A kiosk at the entrance offers a contactless temperature scan for entry. The refreshed space sheds the retro diner design of Nancy Dean’s Kitchen for a more hip Italian vibe—black and white with pops of red. A cashier is ready to take your order—now shielded behind clear plastic, of course—and the dining room is temporarily standing room only with six-foot markers to distance while queued for order or pickup. (Once the state and county permit indoor dining again, a few socially distanced tables will be added here.)
Orders can be called in ahead of time with a window on Hoffman for pickup and payment, including the option for contactless curbside pickup if preferred. You’ll find limited outdoor seating on Lighthouse and down Hoffman. Online ordering will be arriving soon too.
Michelle remains in good spirits about opening a restaurant during the pandemic, “We’re adjusting as we need to and staying flexible. My motto is that we can only control what we can and some things are out of our control.” She laughs, “The old saying is when you ‘get lemons, make limoncello.’”
Tutto Buono Eataliano • 598 Lighthouse Avenue, Monterey • 831-920-1940 • Open 11:30am-7pm Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday