Carmel’s hidden gem Il Grillo serves organic, homemade pasta

In downtown Carmel, a ways up from  the busy streets and chaos, lies a unique little Italian restaurant with a quaint outside seating area serving all organic food and making all of their pasta and bread from scratch.

Opened in 2015, Il Grillo’s menu is constantly changing sauces and other minor details, but they try to mainly focus on their house made pastas.

“We try to do everything from scratch,” says Anna Bartolini, one of the owners to Il Grillo. “Our ingredients are very important to us, and we try to work as much as we can with local farms.”

Their bread and balsamic is also homemade; they make their balsamic in a unique way known as agar agar, which turns the balsamic into jellylike substance. They do this by taking vinegar and dropping bits of it into cold olive oil. By the time the vinegar hits the bottom, it has turned into little pearls of balsamic.

“I would say the customers value the attention to detail that we try to give,” chef Quinn Thompson says. “It’s not just with the food, but making sure that they feel welcome when they come in.”

Their strozzapreti pasta combines housemade tomato sauce and wagyu beef fresh from Oregon.

“A lot of repeated guests keep coming here, mostly locals,” Il Grillo manager Jay Mavrid says. “It’s one of the neighborhood restaurants so everybody just knows each other.”

Barolini says that she wanted Il Grillo to have a casual atmosphere, like her favorite restaurants in Italy.

“I really believe that they have a lot of integrity,” Thompson speaks of the owners. “They want to work with great products and local farms, and they care about the community and their employees.”

Thompson has been cooking in restaurants for 20 years, and before working at Il Grillo, he was cooking for Post Ranch as a sous-chef in Big Sur. After the winter’s bridge closure, he decided to get a job in a more convenient location.

Located on Mission Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenue, Il Grillo is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, they are open from 5 to 10 p.m.