Paradise Pantry
222 E. Main St.
Ventura
805-641-9440
$8-$38


I happened in early, 5:30 on a Wednesday night, for a light dinner and glass of vino at Paradise Pantry. As luck would have it, unbeknownst to me, there was a really cool winemaker event happening. A charming Italian winemaker from the Piedmonte region of northern Italy was pouring wines from the family winery named for his mother, Anna Maria Abbona. Added bonus: the $15 fee, for a flight of nine wines was a great deal.

Even at the early hour, the restaurant side of Paradise Pantry was filling up with singles at the tiny bar, couples, BFFs, and even a family with kids dining and imbibing. The low lighting in the cozy and totally inviting venue made it comfortable for solo dining, since my dining companion cancelled last minute.

I was warmly welcomed by the waitress, one of the owners, Tina, and the winemakers, and felt completely comfortable on my own as each one came by my table with tastings and information on each wine or to see if I needed anything.

I choose wisely from the weekly specials menu: a delicious sounding flatbread, which would pair nicely with the wines and also leave room for dessert!

As Tina came and introduced herself and poured and explained the first wine, a lovely dry sparkling wine, she asked what I ordered from the waitress. 
When I told her the flatbread, she replied: “Good choice.”

Flatbread with ribbons of zucchini and yellow squash, kale, maple-scented pork.

She couldn’t have been nicer and she was right about my order. It was an excellent choice, in fact. The flatbread with ribbons of zucchini and yellow squash, kale, maple-scented pork was amazing and the wine pours were timed perfecting with my consumption. Sometimes the food and drink gods of the Universe shine upon a hungry patron.

A good-looking burger and the very popular Kei’s Killer Mac (mac with pancetta, sage and Portobello mushrooms) at another table enticed for another time. Regular menu items include artisan cheeses and charcuterie plates, seven pâté choices, spicy fish soup and weekly soups (creamy potato with duck comfit, for example) and yummy sounding salads. There are 10 sandwiches to choose from that include grilled cheese, an ono melt or roasted turkey and pesto. The Italiano! is a panini grilled sandwich comprised of Italian truffle cheese and baby arugula, wrapped with prosciutto.

Dark chocolate pot du crème was accompanied by mascarpone vanilla whipped cream, lovely ripe red berries and a berry rose sauce.

By the time I’d finished the flatbread and neared the end of the tastings, I was feeling a bit decadent and decided to order the chocolate pot du crème to pair with the last two tastes: a Barolo and the sweet Asti Spumante. The dark chocolate pot du crème was accompanied by mascarpone vanilla whipped cream, lovely ripe red berries and a berry rose sauce. I ate it all.

The wines offered daily are another story. Suffice to say there are plenty to choose from by the glass or the bottle.

I was so full I thought I’d burst, but so happy that I decided to float away like a balloon. I couldn’t have had a better experience if I was a Barbera grape (my favorite pour of the evening) that had been picked and bottled.

Paradise Pantry is not cheap, but it’s good value for the money. There’s a cheese counter and wine shop next to the restaurant where you can get tasty goods to go. There’s also a monthly Sunday brunch with an amazing looking menu.

I plan on going back for one of their Friday or Saturday night dinners — fresh, local-caught ling cod, Snake River Wagyu and special pastas all appeal.

See what surprises are in store for you at the aptly named Paradise Pantry.