Clever Chef At Catania Hits All The Right Notes

Whole Roasted Branzino with Manila Clams, Spring Onion Pesto, Grilled Asparagus and Chili Bread Crumbs

The smell of wood-fired pizzas hits you as you walk in the door at Whisknladle Hospitality’s Catania, nestled on the top floor of the La Plaza center in La Jolla, California.

San Diego Food Finds Catania Restaurant
Ahi Tartare with Melon, Calabrian Chili, Yogurt, Shallot, Lemon, Sesame, Pistachio and Tarragon

Inspired by Whisknladle Hospitality Owner Arturo Kassel and Culinary Director/Partner Ryan Johnston after their two-week, 1,400-mile road trip through Italy, this innovative 3,750-square-foot restaurant, with an expansive patio and outdoor bar space, puts diners right near the ocean and within walking distance of shopping.

Catania La Jolla
Cherry and Purslane Salad

At the helm of the kitchen, self-taught Executive Chef Dustin Karagheusian is channeling Italian coastal cuisine on a whole new level and he manages to nail it, hitting all the right notes. “I owe most of my kitchen skills to Johnston, who sets the the ‘chef’ bar very high,” he says. “Whether it be butchery, pasta preparations, braises or knife cuts, it MUST be great or we start again.”

Wild Boar Corzetti with Cherries, Pine Nuts, Aged Balsamic, Honey, Gremolata and Parmesan

Karagheusian explained to me that although the food he prepares at Catania appears relatively simple to the eye, he’s very strict about executing each dish perfectly and consistently, serving food that is traditional to Italy while showcasing San Diego fruits and vegetables.

San Diego Food Finds By Maria Desiderata Montana
Peach and Prosciutto Pizza with Ricotta, Fontina, Aged Balsamic and Fried Sage

Passionate about the Slow Food Movement, Karagheusian sources local and sustainable produce from Chino and Suzie’s Farms, as well as partnering with Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery where they grow their own produce and serve wines at Catania that are specially made from there. “Our seafood is incredibly fresh coming from our neighbors in Mexico,” he says. “We also have two fisherman that bring fresh local seafood, caught just a few hours prior, directly to our back door.”

San Diego Food Finds By Maria Desiderata Montana
Semifreddo with Nutella, Hazelnut, Olive Oil and Saba

When he’s not in his restaurant kitchen, Karagheusian enjoys playing guitar and piano. His favorite meal to cook at home is Red Wine Mushroom Risotto with “more parmesan than anyone should ever consume!” Catania CA
Limoncello Tiramisu

Catania is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to midnight. Happy Hour runs daily from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and again on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 p.m. to close with pizza and select beer, wine and cocktail specials. For more information, visit:

©Written by Maria Desiderata Montana

Catania Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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