With recipes from Milan and a view of the Village, Vigilucci’s Ristorante is a local favorite in San Diego County

Capesante ai Pomodorini Secchi: Giant pan-seared diver scallops with minced red onion, pancetta, cherry and sundried tomatoes, cream and Cajun seasoning; served atop risotto cakes and sweet corn. (Photo by Daniel K. Lew)

By Daniel K. Lew

When classic Italian cuisine meets the modern sophistication of La Jolla, one is likely to end up at Vigilucci’s Ristorante La Jolla. Roberto Vigilucci’s family of seven restaurants carrying his last name are spread throughout San Diego County with each location offering traditional recipes taken from his upbringing in Milan, Italy, along with slight modifications to suit each locale.

Perched on a second-floor overlooking La Jolla’s bustling Village area, Vigilucci’s Ristorante La Jolla serves a well-rounded menu of Italian favorites, and also adds contemporary dishes fit for San Diego’s modern-dining scene.

“These dishes appeal to our customers who come from all over, whether it’s locals or tourists,” said Dana Sills, executive chef of the La Jolla location. “People want the classic Italian dishes and they also like the newer dishes.”

Sills adds: “Roberto Vigilucci simply has a love for food, and you can see it in his eyes lighting up whenever we bring out a dish — and he reflects that at his restaurants, based on the premise of very good food, high-quality preparation and fresh ingredients.”

Vigilucci and his chefs “pay attention to the details” in the preparation of ingredients complimented with a consistent cooking process. “In cooking, everything you do matters,” Sills said. “We make our own pastas, and we make our sauces and soup stock fresh, every day — it’s what helps us stand out. Some people take shortcuts in this day and age when you’re trying to feed the masses, but we take the time. When you’re using recipes handed down from Roberto’s grandmother and family, it’s very important to us to take the time and do the work. It makes a difference; you can taste it.”

Agnello del Colorado: 10-ounce Colorado lamb chop with port wine reduction and mushroom-saffron risotto. (Photo by Daniel K. Lew)

If it’s all about the sauce, Sills recommends the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese: Fresh homemade pasta tossed in a classic bolognese-style ragout. “The fresh ragout is cooked for hours with beef, chicken and veal; and simmered down,” Sills said. “The recipe came from Roberto’s family — it has not been altered and it’s still a favorite.”

Even with some popular dishes like lasagna, Vigilucci and his chefs say they find ways to improve upon some classics. During a recent trip back to Italy, Vigilucci tasted a local lasagna so irresistible he brought back its recipe. His restaurants now serve Lasagna Pugliese: Fresh homemade pasta sheets filled with mortadella, Parmigiano, fresh mozzarella and besciamella sauce.

“This lasagna has mortadella (a style of Italian sausage) making it different, and other ingredients like a creamy béchamel sauce, nutmeg flavor and aged mozzarella.” Sills said.

Traditional Italian entrees like veal are also prepared with extra care, said Sills, who recommends Piccata di Vitello: Pan-seared veal scaloppine in a lemon caper sauce, served with spaghetti tossed in garlic and olive oil, and a side of seasonal vegetables.

The veal is seared, browned and simmered in a lemon, white wine and caper sauce with butter. Sills said “the veal is tender and juicy because it’s thin-sliced across the grain, gets pounded out, and soaks up all that flavor cooking in the sauce.”

Large enough to share, Cioppino is served simmering hot in a large tray with mussels, Manila clams, jumbo prawns, calamari, fresh fish, and diver scallops sautéed with roasted garlic in a zesty and thick tomato sauce. (Photo by Daniel K. Lew)

Another popular meat dish is Agnello del Colorado, which uses highly regarded Colorado lamb — touted for its flavor and texture. The dish serves a 10-ounce seared Colorado lamb chop, finished with a port wine reduction, and laid upon a bed of mushroom-saffron risotto.

“Risotto is something we really love to do here,” Sills said. Vigilucci’s makes its risotto with Carnaroli rice — considered “the king of rices” — instead of the more common arborio rice. Carnaroli’s higher starch content and firmer texture allows for “al dente” risotto.

Seafood lovers will want to try the cioppino. Unlike many places that serve cioppino in watery stock, Vigilucci’s uses a long-held family recipe and prepares it like a thick seafood stew — also arriving in a large, steel serving dish at one’s table. The generously-sized dish is filled with fresh seasonal mussels, Manila clams, jumbo prawns, calamari, fresh fish, and diver scallops sautéed with roasted garlic in a zesty — and thick — tomato sauce.

“The seafood is simmered in a spicy tomato sauce that thickens itself with fresh seafood stock that we make fresh every day,” Sills said. “The marinara makes a difference; the stock you use makes a difference — all these things add consistency, texture and flavor to your dish. When all the seafood and ingredients simmer together, you get a nice, thick soup — it’s superb,” Sills said.

Consistency in its food quality is also important to the Vigilucci’s philosophy. “If you come here and have a cioppino on Monday, I need it to be just as fabulous on Saturday,” Sills said.

“Beside using Carnaroli rice which absorbs more flavor; the rest is cooking technique and product. We use fine-aged Parmesan and soup stock that we make here every day. Timing is so important with cooking risotto — it has to be baby sat, constantly stirred, and watched until the point it’s not absorbing anymore; then you know it’s done.”

Coming up with contemporary, California-modern dishes allow Vigilucci’s chefs like Sills to express their creativity in offerings like Capesante ai Pomodorini Secchi. Pan-seared diver scallops are sautéed with minced red onion, pancetta, cherry and sundried tomatoes, cream and Cajun seasoning; served atop risotto cakes and sweet corn.

“Where we especially let our creativity flow is in the cooking-demonstration events and wine dinners,” which are held periodically with special, off-menu dishes paired with appropriate wines, Sills said.

Vigilucci’s dining room opens to a patio overlooking La Jolla Village. (Photo by Daniel K. Lew)

“Beside using Carnaroli rice which absorbs more flavor; the rest is cooking technique and product. We use fine-aged Parmesan and soup stock that we make here every day. Timing is so important with cooking risotto — it has to be baby sat, constantly stirred, and watched until the point it’s not absorbing anymore; then you know it’s done.”

Coming up with contemporary, California-modern dishes allow Vigilucci’s chefs like Sills to express their creativity in offerings like Capesante ai Pomodorini Secchi. Pan-seared diver scallops are sautéed with minced red onion, pancetta, cherry and sundried tomatoes, cream and Cajun seasoning; served atop risotto cakes and sweet corn.

“Where we especially let our creativity flow is in the cooking-demonstration events and wine dinners,” which are held periodically with special, off-menu dishes paired with appropriate wines, Sills said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Vigilucci’s Ristorante La Jolla has since closed its La Jolla location since early 2012, but other Vigilucci’s locations remain open throughout San Diego County. Locations and information at: www.vigiluccis.com

Vigilucci’s Ristorante La Jolla
Address: 909 Prospect St., Suite 290, La Jolla
Phone: (858) 454-9664
Website: www.vigiluccis.com
The Vibe: Casually elegant, sophisticated, welcoming
• Signature Dishes: Tagliatelle alla Bolognese (pasta in bolognese-style ragout), Lasagna Pugliese, Cioppino, Piccata di Vitello (veal), Agnello del Colorado (lamb chop), Capesante ai Pomodorini Secchi (diver scallops)
Open Since: 2007
Reservations: Yes
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
• Happy Hour: 4 p.m. to close Sunday-Thursday; 4-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Hours:
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday
11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Sunday brunch includes panini sandwiches, gourmet burgers, and salads.

On The Menu Recipe

Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com

Just “click” the “Get The Recipe” logo below. This week: Vigilucci’s Seared Scallop and Fennel Risotto


Direct Link to Recipe: http://www.lajollalight.com/2011/11/17/on-the-menu-recipe-vigillucis-seared-scallop-and-fennel-risotto/

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Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=54711

Posted by Staff on Nov 17, 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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