If I've been away from somewhere I've lived long enough, a lot of details become blurry as the years roll by. I may need to consult my BlackBerry's GPS to jog my memory for exact directions. I might need a little coaching to remember the last names of some of the people I knew. However, I can recall every detail of my favorite restaurant dishes with deadly accuracy. Food has such a huge connection to the memories I have of a particular place. Once I'm away from an area I once loved, I often find myself missing certain restaurants or particular dishes as much as I do the friends or family members who lived there.
I'm sure this is at least part of the reason why one of the most important personal decisions attached to my recent return to the Monterey Bay area was without a doubt where to eat first. Naturally, I wanted to have something familiar that I hadn't eaten in a long while. I also wanted to introduce Seth to something that was a little different for him. Eventually we decided we can't go wrong with a good pizza, so we decided to stop at Gianni's for lunch today. It's a local favorite for a good reason. The atmosphere is cozy while the food is terrific and reasonably priced.
This is the Pesto di Mare special, one of my personal favorites. It features Gianni's signature crust topped with fresh pesto, olive oil, roasted garlic, mozzarella, and shrimp. (It normally also comes with tomatoes, but we ordered ours without.) Years ago, this was one of my first real encounters with pizza that went beyond the standard tomato sauce and pepperoni combination. It also has remained something that I've associated with Monterey over the years long after I moved away. It was certainly a treat to get to have it again right before a pleasant drive by the ocean for the first time in a long while.