Giardino Neighborhood Cucina is a true family-owned and operated restaurant in Lemon Grove. Not only do owners Marco Provino and wife Karina Kravalis work in the restaurant, but they also live in the neighborhood. Provino helms the kitchen, while Kravalis runs the front of the house, with each taking the time to personally greet every guest that walks through the door. “We both come from hospitality backgrounds, and liked the appeal of a neighborhood restaurant that was away from the hustle and bustle of working downtown,” says Kravalis. “We also noticed there weren’t too many sit-down, family-style eateries in Lemon Grove, so we dove in!”
A labor or love, Provino and Kravalis built everything in the restaurant by hand, with little outside help. Provino built the tables and put up the exterior wood paneling, which transformed the space, and brought it to life. Kravalis handpicked the plates, glassware, décor, and her favorite vintage floral wallpaper from Italy. A small private room in the back of the restaurant, where the pasta is made, is also available for intimate events and celebrations. “The space feels cozy and welcoming, which is how we want everyone to feel,” says Kravalis .
Located in the heart of Coronado Island, Primavera Ristorante serves exceptional innovative Northern Italian cuisine, inspired by the fresh ingredients and flavors of San Diego.
Committed to using the best local produce and locally caught fish, Executive Chef Ryan Moore prepares classic Italian dishes that have been consistent throughout the years. “We’ve evolved by creating new dishes, keeping the menu fresh and new, yet still executing our most popular dishes,” he says. “We’re also starting to offer more specialty prix fixe menus for the holidays.”
Dolce at the Highlands in the Village of Pacific Highlands Ranch just off Highway 56 and Carmel Valley Road boasts a sophisticated ambiance paired with a unique energetic vibe. Diners can enjoy traditional Italian American cuisine in a comfortable setting surrounded by quality design.
Dolce’s Executive chef Rhoelle Gabriel offers made from scratch specialties from ingredients sourced locally or directly from Italy. “We try to keep our dishes interesting and different,” she says. “I just want to create great tasting food!”
October is National Dessert Month and Nick & G’s, which recently opened in Rancho Santa Fe has some decadent desserts worth celebrating!
Friends and families alike are invited to savor the tastiest in Mediterranean/Italian dining at Nick & G’s, which offers a variety of pastas and signature flatbreads, among other delicious menu items. After dinner, customers can indulge in one of the restaurant’s desserts, including the Chocolate Cake. While rich in flavor and tasty to the very last bite, the chocolate cake can easily be made in your own home!
My seafood fettuccine is a very light dish that’s easy to prepare. My version isn’t as creamy as you would normally expect. I like to keep it simple with extra-virgin olive oil, butter and fresh herbs. Make sure to get a fresh baguette for extra dipping.
Get 25 of my authentic Italian recipes in my new book San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History Of Little Italy And beyond.
Not So Creamy Seafood Fettuccine
2 cans minced clams
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces cocktail shrimp, precooked
6-ounce can crab meat
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 pound fettuccine, cooked according to package instructions
Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated (as much as you like), for garnish
Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking. My mother took the fresh produce my father created and taught me how to prepare cucina Italiana by smell, touch and taste. As a child watching her in the kitchen, I was fascinated with the movement of her hands as she wove intricate details into preparing the made-from-scratch, mouthwatering meals that her mother had served, and her mother before her.
When it comes to the perfect casserole dish, baked lasagna tops my list. This dish of alternating layers of pasta sheets, topped with a flavorful sauce and cheese, is easy to assemble, tastes delicious and is always a crowd-pleaser.
There are a number of theories on where the popular name was born, but most references agree the word originated in the Greek language for flat, unleavened bread or pasta dough cut in sheets. The Romans used a similar word lasanum, the Latin word for “cooking pot,” to describe the pan in which the dish is made. Later, the name was adopted for the food itself.Different regions in Italy serve lasagna in various ways. In Northern Italy, a typical lasagna recipe has a Béchamel sauce as its base, with the addition of vegetables such as spinach, eggplant or mushrooms. I prefer the Southern Italian version with its hallmark use of ricotta cheese and a traditional Bolognese sauce that can include ground beef, pork sausage or veal.
I serve my lasagna with red wine and a crusty Italian bread. Add a fresh green salad of escarole and romaine lettuces dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and dinner is served.
Opened in 1995, this is the perfect choice if you’re in the mood to savor great Italian fare in a more rustic, country farm house atmosphere. Located adjacent to the casual Café Zucchero, Trattoria Fantastica offers a more refined dining experience. Wood-fired pizzas are the centerpiece of the menu, but plenty of salads and pastas are offered, as well as paninis, soups and more. Directly in the shadow of the Little Italy sign, the patio seating is especially popular. Trattoria Fantastica 1735 India St, San Diego, CA 92101; (619) 234-1735, www.trattoriafantastica.com
As ethnic neighborhoods in other cities assimilate to American life, the exuberant local flavor of San Diego’s Little Italy remains both culturally and culinarily distinct. Tucked between Interstate 5 and San Diego Bay southeast of San Diego International Airport, the blocks surrounding the landmark Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church contain many of the most notable eateries and gourmet cafés in “America’s Finest City.” Join Maria Desiderata Montana, a daughter of that Italian heritage and one of the city’s most notable food writers, on this savory tour through the zesty Italian food traditions, businesses and recipes both in Little Italy and across San Diego.
Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking.
I think my passion for cooking started when I was 7 years old, waking up early Christmas Eve morning to make homemade ravioli for our big Christmas dinner. When I say early, I mean the crack of dawn. You see, my mother couldn’t rest until the ravioli was finished. It was as if she, a perfectionist by nature, just couldn’t wait to see how beautiful they would turn out.
While the rest of the house was quiet, my mom would play soft Italian music really low and share her childhood stories, as my sister and I helped roll out the pasta dough. Forget about the men in my family ever helping in the kitchen. Our Italian tradition was that the cooking was for the women only.
Today, we all live down the street from each other, and my mother and sister come to my house to help my daughter and me make the ravioli, while I play Italian music and throw in some of my own cooking tips. We prepare the ravioli a few days ahead of time and freeze them for Christmas Day.
Perched on the corner of Date and India Streets, Napizza is not only one of the newest establishments in Little Italy, but it also has a new concept that is gaining attention. Green-certified and committed to utilizing locally sourced, organic ingredients with no preservatives or chemicals, this is not your typical pizza joint. But that new philosophy is underscored by one of the oldest traditions in pizza-making techniques. Pizza al taglio is the centuries-old art of utilizing special flour, yeast and water and allowing for a slow rise, creating a product with no equal. The large, square-cut pieces are familiar to anyone who’s sampled street food from Italy’s larger cities. Produce is sourced daily from local and organic farmers, whether you enjoy it on a pizza or sample it from the organic salad bar. Read more about Napizza in my new book: San Diego Italian Food: A Culinary History of Little Italy and Beyond.
Sophisticated and modern, Isola Pizza Bar offers warm and friendly service to every guest whom walks in the door. Located in a tiny storefront in the heart of San Diego’s Little Italy, the menu is a surprise that will leave you craving more for your next visit. Read more in the ‘San Diego Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From America’s Finest City’, now available for pre-order.
ISOLA PIZZA BAR
1526 INDIA STREET
SAN DIEGO, CA 92101
(619) 255-4230 www.isolapizzabar.com
Best Restaurants and Local Eats/PO Box 675362, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067