A Wonderful Italian Take on San Diego Restaurant Week
by Susan Montgomery
More than 180 restaurants are participating in San Diego Restaurant Week, which runs from September 22 through 29th. During Restaurant Week these restaurants offer three-course dinners for a reasonable set price. Many restaurants also offer lunch options. Restaurant Week is a great way to explore a variety of excellent restaurants without breaking the bank. My dining companion and I were recently fortunate to have the opportunity to review two very special Italian restaurants.
We loved Soleluna Café, located in the charming Cortez Hill area, and enjoyed meeting the personable owner, Michele Borelli, who shared some exquisite dishes with us.
For the appetizer course, we chose Polenta Crostini and Burrata e Prosciutto di Parma. The crostini was beautifully presented with mushrooms, melted smoked mozzarella, and prosciutto speck (smoked and cured) atop rounds of sliced polenta. This combination of flavors created a unique, savory dish. The lovely creamy burrata in the other appetizer went so well with the flavorful slivers of prosciutto. (Tasting the cheese and prosciutto together in one bite is the way to go.) Michele perfectly paired the appetizers with a crisp Prosecco—that famous Italian bubbly that is ideal for launching any gathering, especially a meal of great Italian dishes.
For the main course, my companion chose Rosemary Lemon Chicken Bocconcini (meaning bites), which of course I tasted too. The chicken bites were tender and enhanced by the lemon. I chose the Handcrafted Saffron and Sausage Risotto, which was flavorful and rich, with the piquant saffron highlighting this special dish. I would definitely order this again. We enjoyed these dishes with a chilled, subtly fruity Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
For dessert, we both ordered homemade Tiramisu, which we had heard from a friend was especially scrumptious at Soleluna. Our friend was right. I might venture that this tiramisu, a traditional Italian dessert made with lady fingers imported from Italy, Italian espresso coffee, mascarpone, sugar, eggs, and cacao powder, was the most delectable tiramisu I’ve ever tasted. It was surprisingly light with a delicate sweetness. Michele served it with a shot of lovely limoncello, a classic Italian lemon liquer that set the meal off perfectly. We were in heaven.
All these dishes are available during Restaurant Week. Dinners, including Appetizer, Main Course and Dessert, are $30 per person with a wine pairing for an additional $15. Soleluna is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is located at 702 Ash Street. Reservations are strongly recommended for Restaurant Week. You can make reservations online through Open Table or by calling 619-232-0436.
The other Italian restaurant we tried was Osteria Panevino, located in the bustling Gaslamp district. We were served by one of the managers, Giuseppe Gagliano, who was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. The vibe here is busy and cheerful with a focus on attentive service. We sat on the streetside patio as the city’s Saturday night activity swirled around us. We ran into some friends so there were four of us, making it fun for us to try a variety of dishes. As we waited to order, we toasted the delightful evening in San Diego with a wonderful Prosecco as we nibbled on freshly baked bread.
Giuseppe paired wines with each of our courses. For appetizers we tried a variety of creative dishes: Polipo Alla Griglia, grilled succulent octopus on a bed of beans, potatoes, garlic aioli, and topped with a pesto sauce; Funghi Ripieni, mushroom caps stuffed with crab, peppers, bread crumbs, onions, herbs, and parmigiana; Carciofi Alla Giudea, artichokes sautéed in lemon butter; and perhaps the highlight of our appetizer courses, Carpaccio Palmito (photo above), thinly sliced filet mignon, hearts of palm, avocado, goat cheese and olive oil. This dish was artistically presented, light, and tasty, but all the appetizers were delicious, especially when savored with a Nobilo Chardonnay from New Zealand.
For our main courses we enjoyed Risotto Mascarpone, a wonderful mixture of arborio rice, pancetta, asparagus, and Mascarpone; Pappardelle Ragu e Porcini (photo left), an outstanding pasta dish made with housemade fettuccine with veal beef ragu, porcini mushrooms and topped with shaved parmesan; ; Ravioli di Agnello, housemade ravioli filled with lamb and smothered in a savory sauce made of mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; and Mezzelune di Melenzane, another unique ravioli variation filled with eggplant and mascarpone in a light tomato sauce. These dishes were paired with Barone Ricasole Super Tuscan, an ideal bold accompaniment with the rich dishes.
As if we weren’t already full enough, we had to order dessert. Three of us had watched waiters walk by with the limoncello cake and we could not resist ordering this tempting dessert, which Guiseppe paired with a small glass of citrusy limoncello. The cake did not disappoint us. It was light and not too sweet with a fluffy mascarpone frosting.
Some of the Restaurant Week menu options vary from the dishes we tried, but I’m sure the quality is equally outstanding. For three courses, the cost is $40 plus an additional $12 for wine pairings, which I highly recommend. (Italian food is just meant to go with wine.) Osteria Panevino is located at 722 5th Ave. Reservations are strongly recommended during Restaurant Week and can be made through Open Table or by calling 619-595-7959.
To find other fantastic restaurants participating in San Diego Restaurant week go to the website at https://www.sandiegorestaurantweek.com/
While I was graciously hosted at these restaurants, the opinions are my own.