Bringing fine dining home: Giuseppe Restaurants & Fine Catering offers options for staying in
Hoping to help customers enjoy fine dining at home while restaurants are closed to onsite dining, chef and restaurateur Giuseppe Ciuffa is offering options, including a just-launched meal prep service.
Ciuffa, who owns Giuseppe Restaurants & Fine Catering, a 20-year-old company with several local operations under its umbrella, said, “We have a very good variety of services.”
In addition to his two restaurants and catering, Ciuffa has added Mando, a meal delivery service launched a few weeks ago.
Mando was created because “a lot of people, they like our food, but they don’t live within the [restaurants’] neighborhoods,” Ciuffa said. “Our goal was to create the type of food that we make, restaurant-quality, into a meal prep delivery service.
“Our focus was to re-create some of the entrees and some of the salads that we know people appreciate.”
Mando will deliver anywhere between San Diego’s South Bay and the southern tip of Orange County, Ciuffa said. The recipes are microwave-tested and delivered on a schedule according to ZIP code, with all ordering and payment online “so there is no interaction.”
The name comes from the Latin “to eat,” Ciuffa said, but it also means “to send” in Italian, his native language. “It’s a way of saying ‘I’m sending you something to eat.’”
The food Mando offers is “very Mediterranean-inspired,” he said, such as butternut squash risotto and salmon lasagna.
“It’s been very successful,” Ciuffa said, “since people cannot entertain and go out.”
Ciuffa originally expected to unveil Mando in 2021, but restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic left him with time to launch it early, he said.
Ciuffa, who grew up outside Rome in “the Napa Valley of Italy,” moved to San Diego 26 years ago. His latest restaurant, Candor by Giuseppe at 1030 Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla, opened in summer 2019.
Candor is now closed for in-person dining because of the pandemic but is offering its “hybrid of European and California cuisine” for takeout and delivery, Ciuffa said.
During the first round of coronavirus-triggered shutdowns in the spring, Candor developed “a very sophisticated system” for meals to go, Ciuffa said.
“I was one of the first people to use the platform Toast for point of sale,” he said, referring to online ordering software that sends orders directly to the kitchen.
“That was the big winning point, because people felt comfortable using the online ordering,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the software, I would be closed by now.”
The food is delivered by restaurant staff and set on trays at the customer’s doorstep, he said. It also is available for contactless pickup at the restaurant.
Customers have responded well to Candor’s at-home offerings, Ciuffa said. “We do just as much business in takeout as we do if we are open.”
For those who need food for more than a few, Ciuffa offers home catering options. “Typically at this time of the year, you can’t book us; we are always sold out,” he said. “But this year, we can’t do events, so we do more small parties. Everything is premade so people just pick it up and reheat it at home.”
For Christmas Eve, the catering business is offering a special family-style dinner with a variety of menu choices. “We’ve been doing it for 20 years,” Ciuffa said, “and people love it. You can build your own meal,” from appetizers to desserts.
For New Year’s Eve, Ciuffa is preparing a special tasting menu with five courses. “It’s dinner in a box,” designed to serve two people, though more boxes can be ordered, he said.
“Everything is prepared in a way that’s microwavable,” he said. “You can reheat one course at a time, or all at once.”
That night, bottles of wine and champagne will be offered at a 50 percent discount.
Ciuffa also owns Caroline’s Seaside Cafe, which is entirely closed for now because its location on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus isn’t conducive to takeout and delivery.
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