Booka’s Chef Eli Epstein with a schnitzel-style catering creation from the menu of his new 831 Sandwiches.

Booka’s Chef Eli Epstein with a schnitzel-style catering creation from the menu of his new 831 Sandwiches.

Housed in the historic and rustically charming old Bayview Hotel in Aptos, Booka has been busy winning fans with its smartly made fusion cooking. Lots of fans. Chef Eli Epstein, a native of Tel Aviv, enjoys mixing up Mediterranean and Israeli influences with California contemporary cuisine. And now his kitchen is getting even busier.

Enter 831 Sandwiches—a smart idea in custom-catered lunch foods that goes way beyond the standard wraps, tacos and pizza fare. The new signature sandwich and salad delivery service, 831 Sandwiches, will bring your order to your business (or other gathering spot) during the lunchtime hours of 10am to 2pm. Lisa Porath, Booka’s office manager, told me the delicious new service is targeting Aptos, Soquel and Capitola clients, who can expect roughly a 50-minute turnaround time from when they place their order—by calling (831) 685-9100—to delivery.

“We're looking to provide unique sandwiches, made by a chef,” she says, and that includes items you'd expect to find if you went out to lunch at a good restaurant. Sandwiches such as crispy schnitzel-style chicken, with aioli, tomato, onion and brine pickles. Or smoked salmon with cream cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and kalamata olives. All sandwiches come with the chef's special potato chips or coleslaw. And there are designer salads as well, such as a rustic Caesar salad with romaine hearts, soft-boiled egg, aged parmesan and homemade croutons. Greek salad. Niçoise salad. Pampering lunch foods averaging around $10.  And you can add juice, soda and chocolate truffles to your order, too.  If you live west of Dominican Hospital, add $5 to delivery charge—and for now, the 831 Sandwich service requires a minimum order of $30 (or three sandwiches/salads. Porath sees the audience for the unique new service as “those looking for alternatives to pizza.” Nothing wrong with pizza, but it's always good to have options. Now you have a lot more thanks to the smart, sophisticated kitchen at Booka. Booka Restaurant & Bar is located at 8041 Soquel Drive, Aptos.

Assembling Assembly: The latest gastronomic love child of the crafty Penny Ice Creamery folks is about to emerge on Pacific Avenue.  And Assembly, the latest restaurant venture of Kendra Baker and Zach Davis, is moving full speed ahead toward an early 2014 opening. Yes, I know it's already 2014, but restaurant openings usually take a bit longer, and a bit more tweaking than any ambitious restaurateur wants. The latest intel about the 100-seat new dining room is that a chef is now onboard, Carlo Espinas, who brings a terrific resumé to his new gig. Espinas has worked at the very trendy Camino, as well as Comstock Saloon in North Beach. And now he's forging local links with growers and purveyors who will help keep his recipes deliciously packed with fresh and seasonal goodies. The opening of a spacious new eatery in downtown Santa Cruz might just help inspire more of us to dine out, early (or late) and often. Hope so!

Winter Wine: Meanwhile, here's my wine tip of the week. From the eccentric winegrowing region of Puglia (southernmost spot in Italy) comes a serious bargain: Tormaresca Puglia 2010 blend of negroamaro, primitivo and cabernet sauvignon. For $6.99 you don't need to even think. Just grab some at Shoppers Corner. It offers tart, spicy hints of cassis and red berries, plus a hint of mineral rusticity. It’s an appealing table wine that loves big red sauces.