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Jul 21, 2007 09:01 PM

Thank you Josh, AliceQ and jturtle for the SD recommendations- how did I do?

I mentioned in my post last week that I would be spending time in SD (some of it on my own) and wanted to know what restaurants to try for a true So-Cal experience. I was staying downtown without a car, so my options were a bit limited. I ended up trying the al pastor at Alambres, and they were quite tasty (if slightly more fried than I would have liked). The tacos at Super Cocina, on the other hand.... out of this world. Worth the cab and foot treck from the Marina! Oceanaire was very special and it was fun just discovering the many new types of fish that we do not see here in NY. Not to mention the flaming baked Alaska sliced and served while still on fire! Fish Market (downstairs) looked promising, but was a disappointment. Is Top of the Market any better? Another disappointment was El Agave near Old Town. I had an excellent margarita there (ok, and a couple of shots), but very dry pork tacos, and even drier black beans. How can they be so highly recommended (not by CHers)? I must admit, by day 3 I was in real pasta withdrawal. I decided to ask around for decent Italian (I realize that this is not SDs forte, and I have a history of bad pasta and pizza in California, though it is getting better). I found two restaurants widely touted to be the "best" in SD for Italian food: Filippi in Little Italy and Salvatore's downtown. I went with Salvatore's. The pasta was overcooked, the sauteed eggplant was chopped into tiny cubes and soggy with oil, and the tomato sauce was way too thick and sweet and abundant, and it left an aftertaste I can best describe as... fake. Oniony. Non-Italian. Yikes! So I got my fix, but definitely at a price! I actually would love to know where CHers in SD go for Italian and what you think of the two places that were recommended to me. Moving on-- I liked Sally's at the Hyatt (and Lael's at the Hyatt does a terrific brunch buffet, by the way). And... I must say, as a NYer, I found Rubio's (fashion valley) fried fish tacos delicious. I realize its fast food and probably nowhere near as good as other fried fish to be had... but I loved it. Also enjoyed drinks at the the del Coronado, a Danish as big as my head from Bread & Cie, capuccino in Little Italy, and a delicious American breakfast at the Waterfront... it was fun. Thanks again.

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  1. Glad you made it to Super Cocina. That's one of the best spots in San Diego.

    I've never understood the accolades for El Agave, either.

    Italian food, based on my experiences in San Diego so far, is not well-represented here - especially to someone from New York.

    1. "I actually would love to know where CHers in SD go for Italian and what you think of the two places that were recommended to me."

      Caveat: I suspect my tastes are a lot more pedestrian, less refined than the San Diego MVChs (most valuable Chowhounders). Still, I am flabbergasted that anybody would recommend Filippi's as "good Italian". It is what it is (a fun place you can take the family, with a style of pizza that some people like quite a bit - though my wife finds it to be a bit of a gut bomb), but what it ain't is gourmet Italian. I'm not familiar with Salvatore, nor have I seen it get a lot of coverage here - which I think says a lot.

      I'd probably have recommended Piatti in a (La Jolla Shores), or Barola in La Jolla - UTC. Or maybe as a poor joke about your New York residence, I'd have said the Godfather in Kearny Mesa.

      1. Vivace at the Four Season in La Costa is an upscale Italian restaurant but their chef (trained at Babbo) left several month ago and I don't if the quality of the food changed. Otherwise Barolo and Piatti, as RB Hound mentioned, are sadly some of the best choices in SD.

        1. being in san diego and having rubios represent a fish taco is like going to new york and eating pizza at dominos. for everything else, your trip was pretty dead on.

          4 Replies
          1. re: DoctorQuality

            Haha-- I understand what you're saying. As I mentioned in my OP, I realize that it is fast food, but we don't even have Rubio's anywhere near NY, and it actually tasted good to me (perhaps it was the novelty of it). I also tried fish tacos (off my friend's dish) at a couple of other places, but I truly prefer the fish to be fried, and those other times it was not, and I just didn't mention it. Please please please do not come to NY and eat Domino' fact, if you ever do come to NY, I'll be happy to give you the lowdown on pizza recommendations....

            1. re: DoctorQuality

              You are welcome, thanks for reporting back!

              I have to diagree with Dr Quality on the Rubios thing. Rubios has let me down in the past, but when their fish tacos are fresh, they're not much different from the tacos you get anywhere else.

              I'm sorry to hear about the recs you got for Italian - I think Salvatore's and Fillippi's are fairly "standard" recommendations, but in that area you probably would have been better off with Buon Appetito (in Little Italy.) Further afield, Trattoria Antica is pretty good, and Barolo is highly recommended. High end Italian is really not SD's strong suit though. A lot of people think of "red sauce" places like Fillippi's when they think Italian around here.

              I'm glad you made it to Super Cocina and to Bread and Cie, and it sounds like you got around to some other fun places, the Hotel Del, etc.

              I'm going to be in NY in October, and I'd love to get your pizza recommendations - and any others you might have. (though CH will probably move the post to the NY board!)

              1. re: Alice Q

                Well, let's give it a shot, Alice...
                NY has a lot of great pizza, and NY pizza actually falls into several categories, so it's difficult for a pizza-lover like myself to choose just one.
                Instead, here is a pretty thorough breakdown of what I consider truly good pizza, and I will try to keep further opinions to a minimum.
                The quintessential NY slice: Joe's Pizza on Carmine St. Outer Borough alternative: DiFara's (a NY CH favorite, including the Manhattan Board), in the Midwood section of Bklyn.
                Classic NY blister-crust coal oven pizzerias (whole pies only, not slices): John's of Bleecker St., Lombardi's on Spring @ Mott St.; Patsy's Pizzeria (the original East Harlem location on 1st Ave. ONLY). Of these three, you will probably find equal numbers of NYers for each one who will swear that their favorite is the best... so let's call it a 3-way tie.
                For Italian exported ingredients, thin-crust, brick oven pizza: Una Pizza Napoletana on E.12th St.; Pizza Pala on Allen St.
                If you love Sicilian-style: L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst, Bklyn.; Ben's Pizza on Spring St. in SOHO.
                Although I have never tried the following pizzerias, it would only be right for me to list them here, as they are much-loved NYC pizza institutions that I simply have not yet gotten to try:
                Denino's on Staten Island and Totonno's at Coney Island.
                And, finally, I feel compelled to include a list of much-hyped pizzerias which I would suggest you skip in favor of the others (IMO, of course): Grimaldi's Pizza on Old Fulton St. (under the Bklyn. Bridge); Piola on 12th St.; Number 28 on Carmine St.; Famous Ben's on MacDougal St.; Famous Ray's on 6th Ave. @ 11th St.; Arturo's Pizzeria on Houston St.
                I am sure this post of mine will get plenty of commentary (both pro and con) once it hits the Manhattan board, and that's what I love about NY: great pizza, great pizza lovers, and something for everyone! If you would like me to clarify anything, or discuss further, I'd be happy to oblige and you won't have to ask me twice :) I'm also happy to give any other recommendations you may need for your trip...

                1. re: vvvindaloo

                  Thanks, I'll have to print this out and take it with me! ;-)

            2. i'd stick to the sandwiches and pizza at filippi's. pastas, etc. really aren't anything to write home about.

              8 Replies
              1. re: daimyo

                I understand the Filippi's bashing around joints like this but I have to say that their meatballs are fantastic. The meatball sandwichs are done right, with cheese. Plus you get a carafe of house chianti (passable for this type of place) for like $9. And the food arrives immediately.

                The pizza is not good (way too thick crusted and too much cheese, but some people swear by it) but the pasta dishes are all reliable Filippi's fare every time I go and the sauce is pretty good for a diner-type Italian place, tangy and thick and they give you a ton. Nice salads and anti pasti plates too.

                Of course there are lines, kids running everywhere, dirty floors, Japanese tourists with their guidebooks trying to figure out what to order (I swear that Filippi's must be in every language's guide book to san diego, I always see tourists with their books there every time I go).

                But the place still exudes a certain amount of family run Italian-ness ala New Jersey that you can't recreate and with the simplicity of their menus and the promptness of their service and the dependability of their food I think it's a good choice.

                It's not fancy and it's barely Italian but it's definitely Americano and definitely San Diego. And where else can you get the great selection of Italian groceries, wine and pastries?

                1. re: stangoldsmith

                  "And the food arrives immediately." - The worst thing that can happen to you in any restaurant and is reason enough for me to never visit that restaurant again. If people want food this fast they shouldn't go to a restaurant but nuke something in their microwave. Both will have the same quality.

                  1. re: honkman

                    I hear you but slow cooking movement this ain't, so you kind of check that expectation at the counter, and when the kids are about to explode there's nothing better than some fast food service (and that chianti).

                    1. re: stangoldsmith

                      I am not talking about "slow food" but even at places as Filippi's I expect that some items are made "fresh" and take at least 20-25 minutes to make. If everything comes in 2-3 minutes in a restaurant it is the same as eating microwave food and that might be even tastier.

                      1. re: honkman

                        So you want them to hand-make the sauce when the order comes in? I'm not sure any Italian restaurant does that. They actually make the pasta all night and don't have a problem with it sitting around. Which means that sauce + pasta is a pretty easy dish to serve up quickly.

                        Plus their turnover is so quick (because of the volume of their traffic and the shortness of their menu). This means that you don't have things sitting around.

                        2-3 minutes is pretty quick and I'd be surprised if that were ever the case. Nevertheless it tastes pretty good to me.

                  2. re: stangoldsmith

                    When I walk in the door of the Filippi's in Little Italy, it smells like Naples. The dried fish and cheeses...
                    and it does taste like it did in Naples- near the area where the tugboat from the Carrier would dock and the food in the small local restaurants on the side streets. Not the hotel restaurants or tourist places...the tiny sidestreet places where only locals went.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      What food at Filippi's tastes like Naples ? Filippi's is even for an Italian restaurant in SD below average.

                      1. re: honkman

                        When were you in Naples and how long did you live there?

                        What is it that you ordered at that particular location of Filippi's that was so bad, so I will know not to order it?

                        Cheese pie. Medium antipasti. Anchovies on the side. Bread, no butter. Half carafe of chianti.

                        Sometimes, we go crazy and get sausage on the pizza. But we didn't have sausage in Napoli.