Restaurateur Larry Mindel and Chef Peter McNee are opening Convivo restaurant and bar this spring on the ground floor of the historic Santa Barbara Inn, which is currently being fully remodeled and scheduled to open at the same time.
Chef McNee describes his style of food for Convivo as “Nomad Italian.” “The foundation–our soul–is Italian but our destination is Santa Barbara and the menu draws from different styles and traditions along the way.”
His menu will feature cicchetti (small plates served in bite size portions), shareable antipasti, housemade pasta, wood-fired pizza and Santa Barbara’s bounty of seafood and meats roasted over a wood fire. Many dishes are served family style and everything can be shared.
A full bar featuring craft cocktails and local brewers will anchor the restaurant. A brick outdoor patio offers al fresco dining with a view of the Channel Islands. An extensive wine list–including wines on tap–will draw primarily from the Santa Barbara AVA.
While attending culinary school in San Francisco, McNee worked at famed Stars and later at Tra Vigne in Napa Valley. Not satisfied with his stateside teachings, he embarked on a yearlong culinary pilgrimage to Italy to cook with the “nonna.” While living with host families, cooking and traveling throughout the country, he fell in love with Italian food and culture.
Returning to the Bay Area, he was drawn to iconic restaurateur Larry Mindel, the founder of Il Fornaio restaurants, and his shared passion for Italy. As Executive Chef at Poggio, McNee and owner Mindel formed a lasting friendship and partnership.
Santa Barbara Inn owner Richard Gunner and Mindel opened an Il Fornaio restaurant together some 20 years ago at the Pine Inn in Carmel. Chef McNee was Mindel’s one and only choice to helm the kitchen at Convivo. Mindel and McNee envision Convivo as a gathering place where fellow Santa Barbarians and guests from around the world can do just that – come together to catch up on life, grab a drink and share a meal while watching the sunset.
Located just steps from the ocean, Convivo will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Santa Barbara Inn (901 E. Cabrillo Blvd.), and will provide catering services for its newly renovated banquet room. Check back for updates on the restaurant’s exact opening date.