moderate San Diego restaurants near La Jolla
Are there any good restaurants in the northern part of San Diego that are reasonably priced - by that I mean under $100 for two including two salads, two entrees, 1 glass of wine each and maybe one dessert? We are in the area for a week - have reservations already at Valentines and Georges but want to be casual a few evenings also.
I'd second Piatti in La Jolla Shores as well. It has a couple of things going for it in my opinion. I consider it a good to great value at about $16 for a typical entree with some great dishes and ingredients. It's popular but if there's a wait it's usually quick if you don't have a reservation.
They always offer a olive oil and basalmic dip loaded with fresh raw garlic, and a basket of bread for it. This is a big plus in my book, and I'm probably not alone on this based on the people I've taken there over the years.
Their appetizers change over the year and currently the one I like is their steamed mussels in a butter and garlic sauce - I notice they're good with garlic here.
I like their pizza, it's not quite authentic Italian pizza (I don't know of any place in SD that's closer), but it's more than good enough for me. Any tips on Italian pizza in SD would be appreciated. =) These were about $11 last time I checked and good in lieu of an appetizer - good ingredients and thin crust.
My favorite dish is the lamb shank pasta, and they do it right in my book. We often order risotto - they use great mushrooms (what I call "real mushrooms"), but occasionally the risotto can be a bit rich sometimes. I used to order their seafood pasta and it's good but not perfect - they normally do a tomato sauce, and if the menu says alfredo you can ask them to do tomato. In general, I prefer their tomato based dishes more, with risotto being the exception.
Recently they had something that was surprisingly good and that was Tuscan white beans - the beans themselves were great as well as their execution. In my experience this is only possible with good fresh beans because drying loses some of the flavors. Anyways, I considered ordering just this to go (as well as the tiramisu at other times). This dish must be seasonal because I don't remember seeing it on the menu before but I could be wrong. It was good enough to make me want to go to a farmer's market and make it at home.
I really like their tiramisu, enough to drive there, get a sandwitch at the Cheese Shop, then order a tiramisu from Piatti to go. I did this without calling ahead and it took about 5+ minutes where I waited at the bar - the bartender handles the order. A few of their desserts can be a bit rich or sweet, but their tiramisu has been perfect in the times I've ordered it. I ate that tiramisu that night, and with lunch and dinner the next day. There is a vanilla sauce they add to it that's a nice touch but the tiramisu is just as good without it.
I'm not big on wine but they used to have a Syrah by the glass we loved. The vintage has since changed and the Syrah is good but not a must order for us like the other one. I do like it though - it pairs well with the food and I appreciate they have many choices of wine by the glass.
A few dishes can be a bit rich, and you can find some better Italian places if at a higher price point in other areas. My observation is you can go casual or dress up, which is another good thing about this place - most people go casual but are tasteful being La Jolla locals or vacationers. I think this fits your criteria as being good at a lower price point, and it's at the sweet spot where it's in my rotation once every two or three months.
If anyone knows a better Italian at this price point in the region, I'd appreciate the tip. I write reviews mostly to get recommendations from like minded posters, or make note of a restaurant I think deserves it. Piatti's the only regular Italian place I have, other than some places I go to on the yearly scale. And past $25 entrees I prefer non-Italian like sushi, French, or places like George's.
If you go during lunch it's a 3 minute walk from the beach..if you have more time and are out of town, of course go to La Jolla Cove 5-10 minutes of drive away.
I like most of their dishes, and the ones I don't are usually due to overuse of one ingredient or flavor. Their ingredients are generally great and fresh. Again, I'd be careful of any dessert that's too sweet but I've found their tiramisu is consistent and great in my experience.
The menu at this location actually fluctuates very little (at least over the last couple of years). Occasionally a new appetizer or risotto may appear, mostly on the daily specials offering, but even that is pretty consistent from week to week. My theory is because this is a) one of a number in a small chain; and b) a very dedicated, local clientele they don't want to rock the boat too much by risking removing people's favorite items. Even though I like a little variety and adventure in my dining options, I find this works well for Piatti as we view it as a comforting and welcoming home with consistent food and reasonable prices.
The beans that you mentioned are indeed very good, rustic, comfort food. And luckily they are a permanent item on the menu under the "contorni" section. One can make a lovely, light vegetarian meal by ordering three items including the beans, sauteed garlic spinach, grilled tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese and basil with a balsamic syrup drizzle, and/or a lucious and rich grilled polenta with a smokey tomato sauce and gooey fontina cheese for $13.95. YUM!