At Aqua Santa you can taste the chef's passion for ingredients in every bite. Whereas many chefs' interpretations of "simple" actually require a French/English dictionary to decipher and a set of silver-plated surgeon's tools to dissect, chef Brian Knox


does a brilliant job of letting his ingredients shine. He does much of his grocery shopping at the Farmers Market, and he changes the menu frequently to reflect what's in season. Fresh figs, tender greens and locally raised organic lamb are dressed up as little as possible. On a recent visit, a dish of earthy porcini mushrooms and creamy

burrata di bufala

cheese garnished with toasted pistachios made us weak in the knees. A late-summer heirloom tomato gazpacho enjoyed on the ramada-covered patio burst with flavor and made us sorry to see the season end. But come winter, a table sheltered by Aqua Santa's smooth-plastered walls and snuggled up next to the kiva fireplace will thaw your frosty nose while Knox's food sates the rumble in your belly.

451 W. Alameda St., 982-6297.

Dinner Tuesday-Saturday; lunch Wednesday-Friday. $$$