Monello’s design and decor mirrors a typical Milanese eatery complete with the downtown vibe of the San Diego bay and the familiar Italian neighborhood.
Sophisticated, modern and rustic-chic, Chef Fabrizio Cavallini says it is one of the few Italian restaurants that dares to serve traditional home-cooking in a modern urban setting, similar to a restaurant you would find in Milano, Italy. “We undressed Italian dining of its obsolete and stereotypical look and taste,” he says. “We had a new menu in mind, our tradition is so rich. But we had no room for it at our Bencotto restaurant. So when the space next door became available, our heads were exploding with ideas after Valentina and Guido’s trip to Italy. When they go there, they eat twenty-four-seven and come back with a ton of new ideas.”
Monello’s menu is 90 percent house-made, and it’s not just the pasta. Every single food listed on the menu is made in-house, even the whipped cream for decoration. The food is a blend of traditional Milanese street food, which in Italy is the most favorite food now for its quality and accessibility. The main dishes of street food are: homemade pasta, polenta dishes, pizza, a supreme selection of cold cuts and imported cheese, meat and seafood that are typical of “trattorie.” This includes homemade gelato, desserts and house-made vermouth, which is the signature element. When possible, Cavallini says they use sustainable, local and organic ingredients, especially for brunch. He prefers to buy vegetables from Suzie’s Farmers’ Market.
Cavallini’s special talents in the kitchen include patience and passion. “I grew up in a kitchen, so I don’t know anything else. I feel at home when I’m close to the stove,” he says. “If you go to Italy, you will notice that we call ourselves “cooks,” not chefs. I like to cook. Simple as that.”
As for his favorite Italian food, Cavallini says it’s the spaghetti with ragu modenese, which originated in his native homeland of Modena, Italy. This is also the same ragu modenese you can find on the menu at Monello. “I like it when guests come back for the third time in a week to eat the exact same dish,” he explains. “We do not want to be trendy, but timeless, like everything is in Italy. At Monello, the food I cook tastes as it should (and would) in Italy. That’s what makes us different.”