Over the past three years, no food writer’s suggestions have scored as regularly as R.W. Apple, Jr. His wide-ranging advice resulted in triumphant meals at all price levels in Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Miami, and San Francisco. As a result, when he recommends an eatery, as long as it’s geographically and financially feasible, I view it as a direct order. His recent rundown of Santa Barbara restaurants led me to D’Angelo Bakery & Bread, a charming café from Dietmar Ellbacher in a quiet corner of downtown that I visited twice.
As soon as I passed under the aqua awning and saw the parade of pastries, it was inevitable that good food would follow. D’Angelo bakes chocolate and hazelnut bundt cakes, pumpkin and berry tarts, brick-sized gingerbread cookies, soft pretzels, and much more, all terrific looking.
Shelves overflowed with fresh-baked breads. I was dizzy with possibilities before lifting a breakfast menu.
I sat outside, at a slatted metal sidewalk table. Three dishes sounded wonderful, and I was with only one other person, so we sacrificed the Eggs “Rose,” poached eggs on Kalamata olive toast with Mediterranean artichoke spread.
I selected huevos rancheros ($9.95), two crispy corn tortillas topped with refried pinto beans, shredded white cheese, sunny side up eggs, and scorching salsa. It was an elegant version of the classic Mexican breakfast dish, and seriously delicious.
Bananas Foster French toast ($9.75) incorporated banana slices, brown sugar, and rum flambé, served on French toast. Since the bread was fresh-baked, and the bananas were caramelized from being cooked in brown sugar, this was ground-breaking French toast.
To drink, we each ordered delicious fresh-squeezed lemonade ($2.50). Uncharacteristic to Southern California, D’Angelo even offered free refills.
Before departing, I grabbed three baked goods to go. Of course none of them survived the day.
The impressive soft pretzel ($1.50), available only on weekends, came studded with large salt grains.
The aforementioned gingerbread cookie ($3.95) was studded with raisins and walnuts and glazed with icing, dense but tasty.
A sensational pumpkin bread ($4.95) was similarly raisin-studded, soft inside, with a delicate crust.
On my second visit, I snagged baked goods that were unavailable the first time, including decadent hazelnut bundt cake.
D’Angelo makes a very good cinnamon roll, soft, pull apart and lightly glazed, which I appreciate.
They set out a basket of fat pretzel sticks, including a particularly impressive specimen, soft and filled with melted cheese and spicy salsa.
They bake pumpernickel bread, rarely seen on the West Coast. Their version was softer and lighter than the East Coast pumpernickel I remember, but it was still tasty. The counterwoman was nice enough to slice the bread, which I enjoyed in the car.
Not surprisingly, R.W.’s taste buds were well-tuned yet again.