Chad Deal 6:58 p.m., May 21
Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe and San Antonio de las Minas lie only a few miles north of the city of Ensenada, and are rife with wine producers that grow many of the popular varietals that are native to the Mediterranean region. This is a place where dry and sunny weather most of the year entices countless rows of marvelously rich Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese grapes to lazily grow plump and juicy as they ripen on the vine. Over decades, the region has not only become a premier venue for world class vineyards, it now also accounts for over 90% of Mexico’s total wine production.
And what would great wine be without great food to accompany it? That is never a problem here; numerous rustically elegant eateries festoon the area and offer a surprising variety of tasty options for hungry travelers and wine tasters. One of the most popular of these is Ochento’s Pizza.
Located on a picturesque hillside overlooking throngs of grapevines interspersed with patches of rugged, chaparral covered terrain, Ochento’s exudes a profoundly Italian influence even as you pull into its earthen packed parking lot. As you enter, the path to the restaurant’s lush outdoor pergola is studded with random growths of rosemary and lavender that also help to enhance the effect.
The fare here is decisively focused upon being unpretentious, fresh and unflinchingly delicious. The availability of fresh, locally grown produce allows them to serve crispy, gourmet quality salads that taste as if the ingredients were just picked from the garden. They also offer a variety of classic pasta preparations, including Alfredo and Bolognaise. But without a doubt, it is the pizza at Ochento’s that takes centre stage.
These aromatic pies come in a wide variety of sizes with an impressive array of ingredient choices, but all have one thing in common; a delightfully crisp crust. And when served within the pastoral setting of their extensive outdoor patio, they taste even more Italiano!
The adjacent indoor dining area and bar offer an alternative to the al fresco experience with a welcoming, old world atmosphere that occasionally offers live entertainment. They have a number of tasty local wines on hand that are available by the glass or bottle at reasonable prices. Ochento’s can also accommodate special events for up to 300 people.
Located in Rancho Cimarron next to Villa Santa Maria in San Antonio de las Minas, this worthy restaurant is a bit off the beaten track, but if you don’t already know how to get there you can get easy directions by simply calling 646-156-83-05 Tuesday through Sunday between the hours of 1:00 and 10:00pm.
While there are several places between Playas Rosarito and Ensenada that serve up pizza, Ochento’s is the only one that brings such an authentic menu to the table in a setting as faithful to the region in which those dishes were originally conceived.
READ MORE ABOUT BAJA: http://www.countrymanpress.com/titles/HookedBaja.html