The Early Days
When The Sardine Factory opened on October 2, 1968, Cannery Row was a run-down and forgotten piece of Monterey on the wrong side of the tracks, but owners Ted Balestreri and Bert Cutino saw potential. “Everyone thought we were nuts but it was affordable, that was the keyword” says Ted Balestreri as he reflects back on that time. Both experienced restaurant managers, Balestreri and Cutino had the skills to build a successful restaurant but garnering the financial resources to do so was more of a challenge. In the beginning, the restaurant had a mere 72 seats and one dining room. Despite the meager budget and humble exterior, The Sardine Factory continued to grow in popularity due to its reputation for excellent food, service, and ambiance.
Over the years, The Sardine Factory added dining rooms including the beautiful Conservatory and impressive Wine Cellar, expanding its 72 seats to 250 seats. Not only did The Sardine Factory set the bar for fine dining on California’s central coast, the restaurant was one of the first in America to develop an impressive and legendary wine list. With the assistance of Fred Dame, Master Sommelier and winner of the 1984 Krug Cup, the restaurant’s wine list became and still is one of the most awarded wine lists in America. Dame led The Sardine Factory wine program for 12 years and it now features more than 2,000 labels and 20,000 bottles, making the wine list one of the most extensive in the world. The Sardine Factory garnered quite a reputation, attracting the attention of Hollywood. Several scenes from Clint Eastwood’s “Play Misty for Me” were filmed at the bar and celebrities from all over the world from Julia Child and Rachael Ray to Jim Nantz and Prince Albert II of Monaco have frequented its dining rooms.
The Sardine Factory Today
When asked the question, “What has kept The Sardine Factory a successful restaurant for over 50 years?” Ted Balestreri answers, “Every customer has to be treated like the most important person on earth.” Co-owner and Executive Chef Bert Cutino concurs adding, “Right from the start the philosophy of the restaurant has been to buy the highest quality product. We’re very fortunate that we have a great diversity of local, fresh and sustainable food choices to us here, and it really stimulates the creative juices.” Today, The Sardine Factory remains a cornerstone of regional cuisine, attracting wine aficionados, celebrities, and locals alike.