Italy and Julia Child inspire Solvang chef

By Raiza Giorgi

Chef David Cecchini remembers being late to a function at Julia Child’s home in Montecito. As he ran across her lawn and into her house, he looked down and realized the grass had been wet and he had tracked dirt on her carpet.

“She looked at me and just burst out with her famous belly laugh, and she was so humble. She was a great friend and I miss being around her,” Cecchini said.

Chef David Cecchini of Cecco in Solvang fondly remembers his friendship with legendary chef Julia Child.

Cecchini was extremely moved when he opened the second edition of her world-famous book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and found a quote of his among comments from other notable chefs that Child particularly liked.

“Julia was not full of herself, and I remember when I first met her when I worked at the Wine Cask she would sit and talk to me about food, and our friendship grew from there,” he said.

Cecchini has spent his entire life around food, as his family owned restaurants when he was growing up in Glendale. He moved to Santa Barbara in the early 1990s and worked at the Wine Cask, then opened his restaurant Nu and was the executive chef at The Harbor Restaurant as he started his family.

He decided he wanted a smaller community to raise his children in, so he moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in the mid 2000s and opened Cecco in the middle of Solvang.

“I’ve done so many styles of coking, but I really wanted to get back to my roots of home style, rustic Italian. I spent time with family in Italy’s rural areas like the valley is and it just seemed to fit,” he said.

Chef David Cecchini has spent his lifetime in the restaurant business.

Cecchini recently bought out his former partners, and sole ownership has been a dream of his since opening.

His right-hand woman is Emily Wright, daughter of local artist and sculptor John Cody, and the two talk to each other like siblings. Wright is in charge of staffing and event coordination.

“We love all our customers and we do some amazing events throughout the year, especially because of our wood-fired oven that David makes amazing pizzas and dishes out of — but we know that people can’t always take time to sit down and eat, so we are opening another location across the courtyard,” Wright said.

Cecchetti will be a wine-tasting room where people can sample Cecchini’s wine along with a tapas-style menu and “grab-and-go” options.

“We are going to offer fresh-made pastas, sauces and meats that people can pick up and take home to prepare themselves, as well as bottles of David’s wine,” Wright said.

Cecchini said there are similar places in Venice where people have a glass or two of wine, eat a tray of small bites and then go on their way.

Cecco’s wood-fired oven bakes delicious pizzas that are also available as part of the restaurant’s catering service.

“With summer approaching and so many festivals, events, and family gatherings it’ll be a great stop to get a quick bite or take a snack with them to enjoy,” he added.

Cecco wants to be in the forefront of a change where people can dine quickly and affordably.

It hosts Wine Wednesdays, where local winemakers pour their wines paired with appetizers for $20.17.

“Our customers are able to meet some amazing local winemakers and learn about their process and eat amazing food for a great price,” Wright said.

Cecco, at 475 First St. in Solvang, is open seven days a week for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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