Riva offers updated seafood classics with ocean views

Ryan Koehler’s experience varies across the restaurant industry and geographically. He was born into a military family in Maryland and moved around a lot, living not only across the country in states like Alaska, Hawaii, and Colorado, but also overseas in Korea. He eventually moved to Santa Cruz to live near his family and six years ago became the general manager of Riva on the Santa Cruz wharf. And he has over 25 years of restaurant experience, having worked his way up from service to bartender to management in small family restaurants, fine dining restaurants, hotels and everything in between. Koehler prides itself on bringing an established business to life, defining the atmosphere as “enjoyable with enthusiastic service,” the ambience accentuated by wood tones and picture windows to optimize the view.
The menu specializes in seafood with Italian and Mexican influences, and also offers vegetarian options and a few meat dishes. The surf ‘n’ turf steak and shrimp taco are hits, as are the cioppino and calamari, and they’re also known for their grilled oysters with red diablo, verde and guacamole sauce options. Dessert choices are highlighted by ice cream, which Koehler says even Italians love. He spoke to GT recently about her upbringing and what sets Riva apart.

How has your background influenced your career in hospitality?

RYAN KOEHLER: Living – not just on vacation – in so many different places has really allowed me to appreciate so many diverse cultures. This is on top of my concern and concern for people, which is an essential part of hospitality and is very genuine to me – and growing up in a military environment has instilled in me a relentless work ethic, which is also essential in restaurants. I’ve found that food really has that kitchen table effect, bringing people together and enabling human connection.

What makes Riva a cut above?

It’s a lot of little things that add up to make a huge difference. Not only do we have world-class views, but it’s also the warm and cozy atmosphere that is enhanced by the work of talented local artists who adorn the walls and which we curate ourselves. We also have unique and delicious cuisine served in large portions at very reasonable prices. And our service staff love working here and really enjoy having our guests in front of them.

Riva Fish House, Municipal Pier 31, Santa Cruz, 831-429-1223; rivafishhouse.com.

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