Even in pre-pandemic times, a drive up the coast was easy medicine for clearing your mind. Now, it’s an almost-essential life activity. You’re out of the house, the wind is whipping through your (still completely ungroomed) hair, and believe it or not, those are naturally produced endorphins you’re feeling. Most of us have a favorite PCH routine by now - which beaches we’re stopping at, which little town has that one weird shop you like - but it’s always good to throw in a few new destinations to keep things fresh. We have just the suggestion - Little Dom’s Seafood.
A spin-off of the original Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, LDS is located in Carpinteria, a tiny beach town about 70 miles north of LA and just a few exits before Santa Barbara on the 101. Door-to -door it’s about an 80-minute drive, which might seem aggressive on paper, but let’s remember you’d be lucky to get from Burbank to Santa Monica in pre-pandemic rush hour in that amount of time. So while making a weekend of it is certainly an option, driving there and back just for dinner is equally doable. In fact, we fully endorse it.
As the name suggests, this neighborhood Italian spot right on Linden Ave. (Carpinteria’s main drag) is all about one thing - seafood. If you’re familiar with Little Dom’s (and the original Dominick’s before that, RIP), you’ll spot old favorites like the rice balls and meatballs, but we recommend skipping the dishes you can get back in Los Feliz. Instead, focus on the things you can’t - the raw bar with live uni and oysters, squid ink mafaldine, and a salmon belly toast with salsa verde that’s one of the best new dishes we’ve eaten all year. After all, you’re sitting three blocks from the ocean - lean into it. And then lean into the rest of the magic that permeates from this weird little town.
Carpenteria is artsy, quiet, and off the beaten path of the pandemic weekend warriors. Little Dom’s Seafood is the perfect place to soak it in. From the moment you find a seat on their low-key sidewalk patio and catch the sun slowly setting over the historic downtown, to when you take your last bite of one of their excellent desserts, a meal at Little Dom’s Seafood feels like a complete experience. And the kind that doesn’t just validate your drive up, but makes you realize that you’ve got a new favorite PCH routine.
Salmon Belly Toast
We’re going to be really transparent about this, we took one bit of this dish and immediately ordered a second one. It’s simply that good. Topped with salsa verde, fennel pollen yogurt, and served on fettunta (oiled Italian bread), this dish isn’t just our favorite thing on LDS’s menu, it’s one of the most memorable dishes we’ve eaten in quite awhile. Make sure this is ordered.
Cold Smoked Salmon
If you’re worried about raw salmon overkill, don’t be. This is a completely different dish than the toast, but one that’s almost equally as delicious. Served with seeded flatbread, it’s essentially a play on the build-your-own lox setup, but instead of whipped creamed cheese, it’s whipped burrata. No one should be complaining about that.
After taking full advantage of the seafood bar, you’ll need a quick breather from the ocean, and this pizza provides just that. With truly razor-thin crust and minimal toppings, the best part is you can split one and still have plenty of room for other dishes. The second best part is it tastes good.
Another great dish to share, this is a well-made sandwich (the pickled tomatoes and Calabrian chile aioli go perfectly together), but one that suffered slightly from the fish itself being a tad overcooked. That said, we’d still order it again.
OK, we caved. How can you go to a Little Dom’s restaurant and not get the meatballs? You can’t.
Squid Ink Mafaldine
This is another must-order dish. Topped with spicy uni butter, it could’ve easily been overwhelmed by the brinines of the squid ink and uni, but thanks to the immense heat from the butter itself, it all balances out perfectly.