For the tastes of Tuscany, with a dash of Sicily, head to La Taverna and mangia! mangia!

By Daniel K. Lew

Not quite tucked away in La Jolla Village is La Taverna, a small Italian restaurant that could have been transplanted from a typical, old-Italian neighborhood. La Taverna, which only seats around 30-40 people, might be small in comparison to other area restaurants, but it makes up for it with generous servings of home-style, rustic and classic Italian food with a strong Tuscan influence.

Mary Ann Vitale, La Taverna owner and executive chef, still uses her father's Sicilian recipe to make Italian sausage, grilled and sautéed with bell peppers and red onions. Photos by Daniel K. Lew

Customers first enter La Taverna’s sidewalk patio through a vine-covered archway wrapped with twinkling lights. Stepping inside the intimate dining room, it feels like one is transported to an Italian village alleyway. The inside of La Taverna is designed to look like an “outside” Italian restaurant with glowing street lamps, a tiled roof protruding from the wall, high ceiling, second-story balconies and windows, and a beautiful mural accenting a whole wall.

Once settled in, patrons are ready for a homey Italian meal. The restaurant’s cheeses, prosciutto and pastas are imported from Italy, with the rest of the ingredients coming from local, organic farms, said Mary Ann Vitale, owner and executive chef.

Vitale, a second-generation Italian-American, grew up around Italian deli-markets and pizza restaurants operated by her parents, and she started to cook and bake at a young age.

She also learned from her father, Saverio Fumusa, who hails from Castellammare, the sausage capital of Sicily. Vitale continues to use her father’s recipes to make Italian sausage and a few other dishes.

Sandwich-and-salad combos are served only at lunchtime. Celebrity Sandwich with chicken breast, roasted tomatoes, spinach, provolone, caramelized onions and Parmesan cheese. La Taverna Salad with mixed filed greens, balsamic vinaigrette, apple, gorgonzola and caramelized walnuts.

Classic Italian comfort food is what Vitale knows best — and she proves it in the restaurant’s most popular dish, Parmesan Crusted Breast of Chicken, covered in a zesty breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese crust. It’s baked to a crisp, then topped with a lemon shallot sauce and served with garlic “smashed” potatoes and a vegetable medley.

Pasta dishes enough for a meal include Pennette alla Vodka, made with marinara sauce, a touch of cream, red chili pepper flakes and vodka tossed with pennette pasta.

The self-proclaimed “Famous” Pasta La Jolla is equally hearty with grilled chicken breast, oven-roasted tomatoes and mushrooms in a Parmesan cream sauce tossed with pennette pasta.

Risotto del Giorno — or “risotto of the day” — changes regularly; the risotto on one particular visit was Pesto Risotto with goat cheese, pine nuts and grilled chicken breast.

Regular patrons say they look forward to Vitale’s moist, old-fashioned cakes as much as the main courses. Upon entering the restaurant, customers are tempted to head straight for dessert with displays of the daily baked Coconut Cake, Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with espresso frosting, and most-popular Banana Cake with brown-butter frosting, cream glaze and pecan topping.

Mondays and Thursdays are the most crowded nights when a 5-course Tuscan Menu is served for $24.95 a person.

The sidewalk patio includes a vine archway wrapped with twinkling lights.

Those who want a “Taste of Tuscany in Small Bites” can try Wednesday’s special menu 5:30-7:30 p.m. to sample dishes like Meatballs with Marinara, Housemade Sausage with Pepper and Onions, Eggplant Parmagana, Shrimp Scampi, or Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola and Prosciutto Focaccini.

La Taverna’s selection of appetizers, salads, entrees and pasta dishes include sandwiches and pizza at lunchtime.

Vitale also operates a second eatery, Sorella Della Taverna Gourmet Deli (Sorella means “sister” in Italian) at 7420 Girard Ave., La Jolla. The deli features sandwiches, pastas, salads, baked goods, Italian meats, cheeses and La Taverna sauces ready to take home. Sorella specializes in catering, as well as delivering lunches to area schools.

Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click “Get The Recipe” at the bottom of the story. This week: La Taverna’s Shrimp Scampi with Gremolata.

La Taverna

• Address: 927 Silverado St.

• Phone: (858) 454-0100

• Website: www.lataverna.com

• The Vibe: Comfortable, Warm, Romantic, Casually Elegant

• Signature Dishes: Parmesan Crusted Breast of Chicken, Pennette alla Vodka, Pasta La Jolla, Banana Cake

• Open Since: 1998

• Reservations: Yes

• Patio Seating: Yes

• Take Out: Yes

• “Food Only” Happy Hour Specials: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday

• Hours:

Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday

Dinner: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Closed Sunday

Get The Recipe

Get The Recipe

Related posts:

  1. Subtle changes at Delicias keep it close to customers hearts
  2. Grill-it-yourself stations adds to the mixin’ and fixin’ at La Jolla Strip Club
  3. On the Menu: Roppongi’s Polynesian Crab Stack with Peanuts and Cilantro, Drizzled with Ginger-Lime Dressing
  4. Fond of food, fun, friends and … fish? Have we got a fabulous find for you!
  5. On the Menu: The in-crowd keeps Cucina Urbana hoppin’

Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=52308

Posted by Staff on Oct 11, 2011. Filed under Food, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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