THREE’S COMPANY

It’s summer and I find myself searching for restaurants at the beach serving good food in a relaxed atmosphere. The Beach Grill at Padaro fits easily into that category.

This one-and a-half-acre coiffed and enclosed beachfront property is perfect for family dining, large parties and catered events. Kids can run wild while parents enjoy the serenity of the ocean, a glass of local wine and music piped throughout the back portion where 75 picnic tables, luxurious sand box and garden await diners. Three owners (as well as in-laws) run the place.

Ed Schram, a Santa Barbara Don (class of ’87), was once a stock broker in San Diego. Six years ago, he returned to Santa Barbara to partner up with Brendan Searls (owner of Dargan’s in Ventura and Santa Barbara and Pizza Mizza at La Cumbre) and Sean Ebadi, who also is a partner at Pizza Mizza.

Ebadi grew up in Orange County, but says he was seduced to stay in Santa Barbara while studying at UCSB. In 2002, he and Searls opened Pizza Mizza on Milpas Street. Being one of their fans, I can attest to the gourmet propensities of the pizza. One of my favorites is the Casablanca Pizza: roasted chicken, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, goat cheese, mozzarella and basil olive oil (personal, $8.95; medium $15.55; large, $18.95).

My only complaint about the pizza, I lamented during the interview, was that by the time it was delivered to my house, it was cold. But Ebadi assured me that “thanks to new technology and an insulated bag that plugs into the car lighter, pizzas [now] maintain a temperature of one hundred forty degrees.” Thanks to Shel Kaganoff (formerly of Ethnic Breads), new creations are continually in process. Working from the La Cumbre location, Kaganoff is formulating provocative recipes.

The reason I’m digressing into the subject of pizza is because the partners have recently introduced two pizza ovens at the Beach Grill. This means they are now doing deliveries in Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito.

Ebadi claims his life is “like a freight train holding onto the tracks.” He spends half his time at La Cumbre and half at Padaro headquarters on Santa Clause Lane. Providing customers with what they want is a full-time endeavor that the three take seriously. “It’s not just about food,” I’m told. “It’s service and atmosphere as well.” On a busy summer day, they can serve 1,000 covers, 310 of which are burgers (eight different half-pounders on the menu served with fries or salad).

Chef Bethany Markee has helped create what Schram refers to as “high-end comfort food,” and along with Mathu Chrestinsen (formerly of Cities Barbecue), they are expanding their event and catering menu.

The day I was there to eat dinner, it was overcast and slightly chilly, so my guest and I sat inside. She had eaten at the Grill on several occasions when meeting a friend from Carpinteria. “It’s a halfway point and I like their food,” she tells me. Perusing a full menu that ranges from juicy burgers, grilled salmon, chicken, wraps, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups, to gourmet pizzas, the choice was tough. My friend selected the fish tacos, a generous portion of grilled ono on corn tortillas with fresh salsa and a garden salad ($11.95). I ventured into the hamburger realm ordering the bleu cheese and grilled onion burger ($8.95). The hefty burger was juicy and flavorful, especially with the addition of melted bleu cheese. Instead of salad, I asked for “frings,” a blend word used to describe an order of half fries and half onion rings.

There was a large party next to us doing a tasting for an upcoming event. Fortunately, we sampled a couple of items that are not on the menu. First, the grilled halibut skewers with pearl onions and sun-dried tomatoes. The combination of a slightly sweet onion and tanginess of sun-dried tomatoes gave the halibut a zesty flavor and colorful look. We also tried chicken breast topped with sautéed mushrooms and served with herbed vegetables.

With all the plein air space, Padaro still exudes friendliness and comfort. “We work with family and friends, and there’s no other way to do it,” Ebadi says.

The Beach Grill at Padaro (566-3900) is located at 3765 Santa Clause Lane in Carpinteria. It is open every day Sunday through Thursday, 11 am to 8 pm, Friday and Saturday, until 9 pm. It’s also open on weekends 10 am for a limited breakfast. For event catering, contact Nicole Schram at 566-9061.