Cheat Sheet: Ristorante Al Mare on Santa Monica Pier

By Lesley Balla  |  February 6, 2014

The Gist: A surprisingly high-end Italian concept for the amusement park, arcade and ferris wheel crowd, although there are still pitchers of beer and a good happy hour.

The Vibe: Two patios, including an upper deck that has better sunset views, a huge bar area and somewhat stale, though candle-lit, dining room. It’s much better than the burger shack down the way.

Eat This: Chef Giacomo Pettinari (Trastevere, Valentino) makes his own butter, bresola and pastas in-house. The butter is definitely worth the extra charge and pastas like the spaghetti with clams and bottarga, rich with lobster stock, white wine, roasted garlic and a generous shaving of cured fish roe, belie the location. Do not miss the stunning chocolate dessert plate.

Drink This: Cocktails are interesting enough but stick with vino.

Skip This: Even if the eggplant is lovingly roasted, layered with good cheeses and a tangy marinara, the eggplant parmigiana might come to the table cold.

For Fans Of: Locanda Del Lago, La Botte, Amici

The Damage: Bar snacks are priced $8-$12, pizzas are around $15, pastas $16-$18 and entrees are $18-$26. The menu is varied enough that you can get by for $20 per person or really splurge at around $50 per person for an app, entrée and drink.

The Verdict: Considering the options on the pier, which vary from food carts to dives and chains, Al Mare is definitely a step up. The place oozes with Italian charm. We could see going back for sunset and people watching on the patio with a plate of calamari fritti or spaghetti alle vongole, especially if we had visitors or wanted to hit Cirque du Sole’s Totem, which is set up in the sand practically right outside the door. Right now there’s a 15% discount for same-day ticket holders.

Ristorante Al Mare, 250 Santa Monica Pier; 310-458-4448