Opened in 1990 by Chef Pèpe, Little Napoli has been considered the iconic Italian restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula for over thirty years.
The dining room smells like garlic. A sign hangs underneath an early 1900s family portrait: “God bless our home and peace to all who enter.”
Sink into a chair by the fireplace, or marvel at the pictures in the Sinatra room and hear a family story – Pepe’s father was a childhood friend of Old Blue Eyes himself.
Look up to find stucco beams intersecting in a perfect Christian cross- a reminder that you’ve entered the historic 1921 El Paseo building, a pristine example of the Spanish Mission Revival architecture that defines Carmel’s charm.
The best-in-town courtyard is lush and lovely. Vines crawl up the stucco, crossing overhead. Below, Red checkered chairs full of happy couples surround The Greeting, a historic statue by the celebrated California artist Jo Mora.
The warm, romantic setting is a perfect match for Chef Pepe’s soul-satisfying cooking. His menu is canonically Italian-American (the Lasagna and Chicken Parm are top-tier) but stays contemporary with seasonal additions like perfectly ripe Frog Hollow Peaches paired with a stunning Stracciatella di Burrata.
Pèpe makes most desserts himself at his nearby Carmel Bakery; the Tiramisù is not to be missed.
Italian Cuisine seen through the lens of the Pepe Family, who came from Napoli, stopped in Hoboken, and settled in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The menu tells their story through food with fantastic wood-burning Neapolitan pizza, classics like Eggplant Parm, and a rotating carte that highlights in-season produce from California farms.
On weekends, Vesuvio erupts. Youths line up beside red velvet ropes, waiting for space at the rooftop Star Bar. At the downstairs bar you’ll find something rare in Carmel – folks who actually live here. Mixologist Anthony Vitacca keeps these locals coming back with inventive cocktails like the Momma’s Boy, made with Maker’s Mark, Cardamaro, peach preserves, and their Pepe branded limoncello; or maybe it’s the award-winning McSuvio burger that’s drawing them in. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing because it’s everything — but the townies are here and they are loving it.
The dining room is more laid-back. Couples chat with neighboring tables and compare notes on what to order from the extensive, ever-evolving menu. If you haven’t tried the Truffled Gnocchi, you must. Fried Artichoke Crochette are an insider favorite, as is the grilled heirloom artichoke, from Scattini Farms in Castroville — that is, when you can get it. The rare artichoke varietal that is so popular it’s hard to keep in stock. Did we mention the pizza?
Vesuvio is named for the volcano that gates the Amalfi Coast, so it seems fitting you should end the night with Limoncello — whether it’s in the form of Limoncello Mouse Cake Pepe makes himself at his nearby Carmel Bakery, or barman Vitacca’s creative Play That Funky Cello Mousse Boy cocktail. Or maybe you should keep it simple with a $5 shot of the house ”Pepecello,” pristine enough to earn an I.G.P. designation from the Italian government.
Pèppoli at Pebble Beach
Italy’s rich traditions, culture and cuisine join together at Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, where for 20 years authentic Tuscan-style dishes have been paired with the widest selection of Antinori wines outside of Tuscany. Pèppoli takes its name from one of the wine estates of Marchese Piero Antinori, who has been called “the most important winemaker in Italy.”