Nestled back in the Carmel Valley is Cafe Rustica, Italian-style country cooking that makes us want to drive the three hours it takes us to arrive there. The first time we ate there, we went with our kids in tow (oops!). We were early and sat out on the front patio so we wouldn't disturb diners inside. The staff was very kind to my boys and brought their pizza out first thing to curb their hunger. My husband ordered the special rack-of-lamb. Amazing! Right then and there we decided that this is a place we must return to over and over again (w/o kids, of course). And we have. We have savored every delicious bite at Cafe Rustica. We have split the green leaf salad and a pizza (perfect thin, crispy, wood-fired crust) and also gone our own ways and ordered off the menu. We once had an apple galette for dessert that was perfection. While there is an extensive wine list, we love the bottled French lemonade. I almost hate to write a review to share our secret spot, but I always appreciate it when other people share their culinary favorites.
Pros: Affordable, fresh Italian food