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Jul 20, 2003 11:06 PM

Massaro & Santos, Monterey

  • m

Finding a nice but not too expensive place for a seafood lunch on a Sunday turned out to be harder than I expected, even in a town driven by tourism. Today is my mom’s birthday and we wanted to take her somewhere that was special enough but would still be comfortable for one as thrifty as she. I contacted all the usual suspects for Carmel, PG and Monterey recommended on this board, and in the end came up with but ONE that serves a full lunch menu. And, we were delighted with the choice.

The harbor views from the Coast Guard Pier were unobstructed on this blue sky day. We enjoyed watching the amphibious tour shuttle put into the water here. The room itself is contemporary and uncluttered.

As e.d., describes, the food is old Monterey Italian fisherman style seafood, the kind that we grew up eating on the wharf with a nod toward the times. That is, fish is just done and not overcooked and pastas and vegetables taste fresher and less mushy.

We started with an order of lumpia and steamed clams to share. The lumpia were overly greasy, the oil may not have been hot enough for the first order of the day. But it was garnished nicely with a fresh pineapple salsa that added a nice kick of acidity. The steamed clams were very good with a delicate white wine and garlic-laced broth studded with big chunks of dead ripe red tomatoes and bright green scallion pieces. The serving of eight clams was a little skimpy for the $9 tarriff perhaps, but we certainly enjoyed that broth with the basket of ciabatta bread and in fact packed up the last half cup of it to take home with us.

Clam chowder is neither red nor white, but a tan caramelly color. My sister described it as New England meets Italy. It was rich with cream and no floury starch, and was very robust with smoky bacon, chopped carrots, celery, caramelized onions, lots of garlic and herbs. The chopped pieces of clam were sweet and very tender. We liked it so much, we bought the equivalent of six bowls ($7.95/bowl) to take home with us!

My parents both had the sand dabs, which at $9.95 was the deal of the day. Four boneless filets (equivalent to two fish) were dusted and gently sauteed in butter then presented in a stack. Also on the plate was the house pasta – rigatoni in a tomato and fresh mushroom cream sauce – and sauteed veggies. The accompanying tartar sauce had the old-fashioned taste of sweet gherkins along with sour dills.

William had sauteed scallops with mushroom Pernod cream sauce, $19.95, on the day’s specials. The scallops had a metallic, preserved flavor, but were just barely cooked staying soft and tender. The sauce had a nice anise flavor, and while somewhat oversalted, was very good mopped up with bread. This was also accompanied by the pasta and veggies.

Stephanie had the combination seafood pasta, $17.95, which was fresh linguine tossed with green-lipped mussels, a giant roasted prawn, clams, dark meat halibut, salmon, and very tender calamari rings. Instead of the marinara sauce described on the menu, she ordered it with the white wine and butter sauce with olives and tomatoes used for the house seafood pasta. It was an enormous portion and she took half of it home.

I had cashew-crusted halibut with fresh mushroom sauce, $18.95. The portion of halibut was thick and enormous. This would have been two servings anywhere else. The prep was delicious and the fish was just the right doneness for me. My one quibble was that the sauce was ladled over the fish, which soaked the crispy crust. It would have been better under the fish. My plate also came with a separately plated serving of the house pasta and veggies.

Our server brought out a complimentary crème brulee with a lit candle on a plate decorated with “happy birthday” in chocolate sauce. It was a little bit stiff but we polished it off. Much better was the flaming Bananas Foster ($14 for two) prepared table side. Very rummy and alcoholic and the server took his time cooking the bananas to softness and coating them with brown sugar sauce.

Service was competent and friendly from the host, our server, the bus boy and tableside cook. Our bread basket was refilled twice (all those sauces!) and with the “heels” when we requested them.

I’ll note that the wine glasses on the table were whisked away when we sat down and no wine list was offered. When I asked for the list of wines by the glass, the wine list was presented but with the comment that only full and half bottles are offered. This was a shame as my sister and I would have shared a glass of wine with lunch if it were available.

At mid-day, most of the public parking lot was full. However, there are a couple spots next to the restaurant reserved for its use. Also, there are two handicapped parking spaces and a wheelchair lift available.

My mom was really happy with her food and the value today. She asked for a menu to take home and I’m sure she’ll be returning with friends and family soon.

Massaro & Santos
Coast Guard Pier
32 Cannery row, Suite H-1

P.S. Any intelligence on Breakwater Deli on the ground floor? The deck seating was packed and we could smell the smoke from the pit. The menu board notes that the pastrami is housecured and pit-smoked. Our host upstairs at M&S said that he’d tried everything on the deli menu and it's all good.



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  1. I'm glad you enjoyed, Melanie. Hopefully I will get back to try it again before I leave the peninsula.


    4 Replies
    1. re: e.d.

      I hope you do, just because I think it's a good value and nostalgic too. While you're at it, let us know how the pastrami is at Breakwater Deli downstairs.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Yesterday, I started my wanderings at the Coast Guard Wharf. I really had thought I would eat elsewhere, but the smokey barbecuey smell of the deli dragged me in. I ordered a hot pastrami sandwich to go and ate it while walking along the shore of Monterey Bay. The sanwich was served in a nice soft roll from Palermo bakery with a choice of condiments. I am no pastrami expert, but I can't recall ever having pastrami with such a wonderful smokey flavor. Unfortunately, I also got the sense that the pastrami had been sitting around for a while--it didn't make me sick, but it did have an old, slightly off taste. I think the problem is that the deli just doesn't get much business and yet they offer a fair number of different smoked meats. If I were a local, I would find out which meat they were cooking on which days and show up on pastrami day to buy a bunch freshly barbecued because I think it would be an incredible treat. Thanks for the hint, Melanie.

        1. re: e.d.
          Melanie Wong

          Thanks so much for checking it out and using up one of your precious Monterey meals! Or maybe you had a midnight snack somewhere else? (g)

          1. re: e.d.

            The deli at the Breakwater does get a lot of business on the weekends when dive classes take over the parking lot...and as the divers will tell you, go for the tri-tip, which is bbqd on the patio most weekends...In many visits, I have never actually seen them bbqing pastrami or other meats (besides the tri-tip); perhaps it is made elsewhere?

      2. A month ago on one of those unseasonably scorching days that seem to be occurring with more regularity, we headed to Monterey for dinner by the ocean. Massaro & Santos seemed a good choice for the water views and chances of catching a sea breeze. The bay was like glass when we arrives, but luckily some wind picked up by the time we left. This was my first time back since my long ago post.

        Prices are still quite low. Here’s the main part of the dinner menu (with higher prices than shown on the website).

        There’s also a locals’ menu served lunch and dinner Sunday through Thursday, but we did not order from it this time.

        Best dish was the first to come out, the fried calamari appetizer, $11. Very sweet, tender, and light flaky batter. The dipping sauce, referred to as aioli, was more like Miracle Whip spiked with Thai chili sauce, and had an out of place candied sweetness. A little lemon squeezed over all and we were good to go.

        The spinach salad, $8, was perfunctory and tasted too much of iron. Bagged baby spinach, candied pecans and a sweet bacon-y dressing. We asked for a share plate, and our server brought over an enormous dinner size plate that would not fit on the table.

        We all had the clam chowder we’d loved so much before. $4 for a cup, $8 for a bowl. Still good, but now closer to New England style rather than the garlic-herbed style I remember. My bowl of chowder was sloshed completely around the rim and dripping off the edge. The server messed up on this one and should not have brought it to the table like this.

        The blackened red snapper salad, $15, was fine, but not as good as it could have been beneath that under ripe mango. It was not truly blackened and the seasoning blend tended to anemic. Very fresh slab of local rock fish though and the commodity spring mix was not overdressed.

        Better were the sand dabs, $16, generously portioned, sweetly fresh and delicate in a light breading and cooked perfectly. Sauteed mix of veggies and converted rice pilaf filled out the plate. The tartar sauce tasted of sweet gherkins.

        And lastly, for dessert, death by chocolate, $7. Not recommended due to the dryness, canned whipped “cream”, and icy vanilla ice cream. Also, the slice of cake tumbled over, as shown in this photo, on the way to our table. I pointed this out to our server, and she said, “Yes, it fell over”, and turned around. Most chefs would not be happy to have their presentation messed up like this.

        While prices are low and we like the view, one has to put up with odd service issues and less than prime ingredients. Yet, the seafood itself is very fresh and ordering the simplest style of preparation seems to be safest.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Good report. It's nice to hear how they are doing. Too bad about the clam chowder, which used to be so distinctive. My local friends up there have given up on the place because of some of the same things you noted. But that is a good location.

          1. re: Ed Dibble

            I think we're done with M & S as a dinner place. Maybe would consider it for lunch at a lower tariff when the service bloopers might not be as obvious. That said, it took us 10 years to return when we had good memories of the place.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I gave up on M&S for similar reasons years ago (although I will admit I am not on the Breakwater as much as I used to be..), but thanks for digging up this old post, Melanie, as a trip down memory lane: my reply to ed(under an old name, no less!) must be one of my first on this site! :-)