Gaetanos (1646 Spring St., 805/239-1070, Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.–close, $10–30) serves traditional Italian fare with friendly flare. Order the handmade pizza and a glass of the house wine (the restaurant’s own label), all accompanied by above-average service.
Getting back to the heavily Mexican influence of Paso’s agricultural roots, grab a taco or two at Papi’s (840 13th St., 805/239-3720, daily 11 a.m.–9 p.m., $10). Prices may be a bit higher than some taquerias, in honor of Paso’s new tourist status, but the casual atmosphere and tasty enchiladas make up for it.
It’s not the fanciest place in town, but the food at Panolivo (1344 Park St, 805/239-3366, www.panolivo.com, Mon.–Thurs. 8–3 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 8–3:30 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–3:30 p.m., dinner Fri.–Sat. nights $17–28) might be the tastiest truly traditional French cuisine in town. Panolivo serves breakfast and lunch on the weekdays, adding dinner on the weekends. The casual dining room makes it easy to linger over a croque monsieur and dark coffee, though visitors just passing through can grab a luscious pastry from the display case up front.
At Artisan (1401 Park St., 805/237-8084, www.artisanpasorobles.com, daily 11 a.m.– 10 p.m., $10–30) old school American cookery gets a California wine country makeover. The white tablecloths and numerous wine glasses hint at the fancy cuisine to come—unusual soups and sandwiches at lunch and high-end entrées at dinner.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition