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The Short Version: Few dates are more classic than sharing a pizza with a special someone. But it gets even better when the menu ranges from simple yet delicious pies to high-quality dishes with fresh and special ingredients. Bettina Pizzeria, located in Santa Barbara, California, is the ideal place to celebrate any stage of a relationship — from a first date to a wedding anniversary. Owners Rachel Greenspan and her husband, Brendan Smith, combined their New York-style Italian meals with the stylings and grace of Southern California for a night that couples won’t soon forget.
Pizza is a classic American dish, and it’s the topic of much discussion between partners who love a particular type of cheese, sauce, or crust. It seems every pizzeria has its own style — and some places are a little more upscale than others.
Some people prefer Chicago-style deep dish, and others rave about the famous apizza from New Haven, Connecticut. Some eat their pie with a knife and fork; others grab a large slice and fold it in half. While many couples have unique pizza preferences, everyone is happy at Bettina Pizzeria, an eatery in Santa Barbara, California.
A pizza date may sound cheesy, but it can be a really fun way to share a meal with a loved one if you’re choosing an establishment that uses fresh ingredients and surpasses expectations.
Bettina Pizzeria offers tasty pizza options and other nontraditional dishes with an Italian twist. The restaurant is located in the Montecito Country Mart and is now open for full-service outdoor dining. Reservations are recommended because the eatery can get busy, and diners should also call well ahead for takeout.
Owner Rachel Greenspan opened the pizzeria with her husband Brendan Smith, and they see couples celebrating all types of relationship milestones over a slice.
“We are very lucky to appeal to couples of all ages, as well as families big and small,” Rachel said.
Couples don’t need to get a cheap slice from a corner spot when they can make a reservation at Bettina Pizzeria. And the restaurant’s staff goes out of their way to make meals special for every couple, family, and group of friends.
Rachel and Brendan met on the other side of the country when Brendan worked as the head baker at Roberta’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn. They started dating — bonding over a “love of carbohydrates,” according to the story on their website. When Brendan was offered a new job in California three months later, he asked Rachel to join him, and she did.
“In 2014, we moved to the Santa Ynez Valley where we eventually started a mobile wood-fired catering company,” she said.
That’s when they mastered the art of wood-fired pizza and started developing a unique menu of complementary dishes created from locally sourced ingredients. That helped their dishes stand out from what couples could find at the local pizzeria.
After a few years, they decided to open a storefront restaurant. They found a space in the Montecito Country Mart, which was the perfect location near Butterfly Beach. Today, the restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Seating remains somewhat limited due to COVID-19-related health restrictions, but the restaurant hopes to offer indoor dining again soon. In the meantime, reservations are highly recommended, but couples can also find a cozy walk-up spot for two at the bar.
From that spot, diners can watch the wood-fired oven blaze away as they sip a cocktail or enjoy one of the many dishes from an extensive menu. The restaurant’s modern, open-style design also evokes the feel of an upscale atmosphere that fits any relationship celebration.
The pies that come out of the wood-fired oven at Bettina Pizzeria are a step above most. Rachel said the pepperoni pizza and the baby gem salad with ranch, pickled onions, and goat cheese are best sellers.
“I think the quality of our ingredients make seemingly simple items stand out, from our naturally leavened pizza dough and hand-pulled mozzarella to our baby gem lettuce sourced directly from the Santa Barbara farmers markets twice a week,” Rachel said.
The menu is divided into spuntini, or snacks, antipasto (appetizers), verdure vegetables in Italian), secondi (entrées), and, of course, pizza. The restaurant makes its dough with organic flour and ferments it for a minimum of 48 hours, creating a complex and delectable taste.
Alongside its pepperoni pizza made with chili oil and Ojai wildflower honey, Bettina Pizzeria offers less traditional options. Some couples may want to try the Roasted Corn pizza, featuring pork ‘nduja, mozzarella, Mahon cheese, red onion, and mint. Vegans love the Rosso, topped with crushed tomato, garlic, olive oil, basil, black pepper, and Ligurian oregano.
When celebrating special relationship milestones, many couples will split an entrée or salad. The half-roast chicken with summer Panzanella salad or the Milliken snap peas, pancetta, pecorino, and mint are just a taste of the most interesting options available.
“I think it helps that our price point can range from low to high and accommodate any occasion — from a fun, weekly date night to a special birthday or anniversary,” Rachel said.
Part of the charm of Bettina Pizzeria is its staff, which aims to make everything perfect for diners. They may recommend a classic cocktail from the bar or something from the extensive wine list, which includes an array of spumante, or sparkling wines.
Of course, celebrations aren’t complete without dessert. The menu features unique sweets, including olive oil cake with thyme and orange zest or chocolate chip cookies with brown butter and Jacobsen’s sea salt.
Rachel said the restaurant is fortunate that so many team members stayed with the restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have an outstanding team full of creative, hard-working, and kind individuals,” Rachel said. “We were really lucky to have so many employees on our crew stick with us through COVID-19.”
The restaurant continues to adapt to protocols to ensure diners feel safe while they enjoy the menu’s special options. Online ordering is one of the easiest ways couples can enjoy takeout. The team recommends ordering online as early as possible in the day.
It offers specific pick-up time windows, and the restaurant may stop accepting orders if the time slots fill up. That happens regularly during the weekends and holidays. Bettina Pizzeria also delivers through Restaurant Connection, a local Santa Barbara service.
Some couples may even see Rachel and her team at local farms and farmer’s markets, where they source many ingredients. After all, the community makes the pizzeria such a great experience for couples at any stage of their relationship.