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Mar 1, 2007 03:45 PM

Looking for good italian in San Diego

OK, I have lived in SD all my life.
Used to eat at Stefano's and then Zolezzi's all the time before they closed it was the absolute best nothing nowadays even comes close to it. I now live in Encinitas there is an epidemic here of uppity high priced italian joints with bad expensive food (like Vigilucci's). I DON"T WANT CREAM SAUCES, every damn place serves cream sauces. Are they trying to give us all heart disease and obesity? I thought italian food uses tomatoe, pesto and olive oil based sauces. How about plain old Capellini Pomodoro? Very few places serving that now. My current favorites are my own kitchen, Lorna's, Mimmo's and take out pasta from Assenti.
End of Rant.

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  1. I agree with all of the cream sauces-can only eat a bit - too rich. Italian food is a lot of olive oil based dishes - simple dishes. I miss that as well. There is a restaurant in Oceanside (on the border of Carlsbad) it is called Gigi's, don't know if it is any good but I thought I might give it a try. Looks pretty pricy too.

    1. I don't know that it's worth driving all the way from Encinitas, but if you feel like it check out Trattoria Antica in La Mesa. Lake Murry Blvd. at Baltimore Dr. in the Von's shopping center. Here's a link -

      Only about half their sauces are cream based. Prices are moderate though on the high end for the neighborhood. The chef/owner is Italian as are some of the waiterstaff. I'm not going to claim this is "authentic" Italian. The only thing I'm going to say is that it's good food and way better than 85% of the extremely mediocre and grossly over-priced food I was served in Florence, Italy last year.

      Ignore the references to the Gaslamp on the web page. It's not Gaslamp food, but they do suffer because of their location. The East County may be a dining desert, but rents are cheaper and first time restauranteurs can more easily afford to open a place there. Unfortunately, it's also much harder to get knowledgable customers in the door even if the food is spectacular. I think Trattoria Antica would like to be a fine dining place, and I think a lot of their menu could support that, but their location won't.

      Ciao Bella, also in La Mesa, can also be pretty good. It's owned and operated by a young Italian husband and wife combo. She cooks he runs the front of the house. Even if it's your first time there you will get an incredibly warm welcome, he is gregarious, effusive and wants you to enjoy your experience. Food is good and can ocassionally rise to very good. I think Ciao Bella can be a bit inconsistent, but then the chef just had a baby about 18 months ago and motherhood and cheffing are not always compatible, Ciao Bella can be found in back of the Shell station, next to the 7-11 a half block north of the intersection of Fletcher Parkway and Baltimore Dr. This is not a fine dining place and it makes not claims to be. Nor is it the sterotypical red-checked tablecloth type of place either. Oh, yeah, if you go, don't park in front of the 7/11, they'll tow you.

      As I said, neither of these places are probably worth the drive from the North County unless, of course, you're desparate for good Italian. However, both are Italian places being run by native Italians. Both do a nice job of serving good food to a local clientel.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        Agreed on Trattoria's terrific. You're also right DD about the 'hood...I really hope they do well in spite of the lousy location. It's worth the drive...maybe not from North County...but from the city yes!

        1. re: DiningDiva

          Thanks for the info. We just recently moved to Carlsbad from Memphis and I have been looking for good restaurants. I have family coming in May and want to impress them with some good places to eat. I haven't had the time to experience too many restaurants yet but I am trying.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            Agreed. This spot is one of our favourites! Every time I've been there, except for once at lunch, they've been very busy. And, since the recent write-up in the U/T, they're even busier. Any reference on their website to Gaslamp food may be due to the owner once having been the chef at Osteria Panevino (at least I'm prety sure it was that restaurant!). I'm glad he had the motivation to open his own place because it's so much better than any Italian I've had in the Gaslamp!

          2. We have been up to When in Rome in Encinitas on 101 a few times and have always been very pleased with the food. They use some vegetables they grow in their garden for salads, which have been excellent. We also had a special of zucchini parmesean that was fresh and delicious. We have been pleased with the pastas, particularly the lasagna or the gnocci (when they have it). My wife liked the pasta w/ eggplant and red sauce (I forget the name).
            The osso buco has been consistently good, and the braciole was great, but was only there as a special one time. Can be pricey, but has been the most consistent Italian I have been to in SD.
            Ciao Bella was also good, but a different type of place, and significantly less expensive.

            1. I remember Stefano's and Zolezzi's, and have eaten many meals at Lorna's! I grew up in that neighborhood.

              For high end - Sante and Manhattan in La Jolla are well thought of. I have also heard good things about La Taverna and I Trulli. Buon Appetito in Little Italy is ok but I don't like the rest of those places much (the ones owned by the Busalacchi family). Via Italia used to be good, but I heard the original owners sold it.

              I live in La Mesa now, and I've been meaning to get down to Trattoria Antica - it's had a lot of good reviews!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Alice Q

                Do give it a try. I have had the opportunity to dine there several times and I find it to be wonderful. Beyond offering fantastic food, the ambiance is very fun. It seems everyone is happy to be there noshing, drinking, and visiting.

                1. re: Alice Q

                  I also grew up in UC and besides mom's, Lorna's Kitchen was the go to. I recently had dinner at Harry's Bar & Grill (more in the UTC area then UC) and it was excellent. I had the spedini appetizer of grilled shrimp and grilled zucchini that was wrapped around goat cheese that was light and delicious. I shared by boyfriend's gnocchi in a red sauce that was fresh and homemade. I would HIGHLY recommend it for a nice Italian meal that is a wee bit closer to Encinitas. When I lived in Leucadia, I really liked Via Italia but that was with the original owners; I haven't been since. I Truili also had lighter pastas that were great (when not too crowded--if it was the pasta was not so al dente.)

                2. Ate at Lupi in Bird Rock last night, I always leave happy. The owner Ruffo is fun to chat with he is very nice, and very knowlegable about food from baja to LA. Crostini Curuso is top knotch as is the Carpacio. The girl and I also split a Linguine (house made) Pomodoro which was excelent. Good selection of wine, alot of the botique, had a nice super tuscan style blend. I'm another fan of Manhattan's, best canneloni in town.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: stevuchan

                    I have been to Lupi too - I had forgotten about it, but it was very good. The owner is very nice.