By the end of this month, La Jolla will have three new Italian-inspired restaurants ready to welcome customers with Mediterranean cuisine.
“Chef Filippo and I met in Los Angeles and we were both looking for a place to open in Southern California. After we checked out many places, none of them was good enough to open a ‘little piece of Italy,’ ” Balsemin explained. But then they found La Jolla. “The first time we saw the place, we literally fell in love with it. The location and the view of the ocean remind us very much of Italy.”
Staying true to their Italian roots, all the dishes will be made from scratch. Balsemin boasts that the soups are made daily, especially the lobster bisque, which is fashioned from freshly made broth and real lobster meat; along with the focaccia bread and even the butter.
Of signature dishes, Balsemin recommends the fettuccine allo zafferano (garlic infused shrimps, creamy saffron sauce, fresh fettuccine, Italian squash, sliced almonds) and the filetto al camino (10-ounce double cut, grass fed, all-natural Angus filet mignon, bread crust, burning herb nest).
The name Acquavite was inspired by an Italian distillate made out of grapes, usually enjoyed at the end of the meal as a digestive.
Acquavite Ristorante hours are 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday;11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Sunday. (858) 886-7142. acquavitelajolla.com
Welcoming visitors is the word of the day, as translated from English to Italian and Sicilian. For to go and take out, calling before 3 p.m. daily is advised. Closed Mondays, hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. (858) 263-4614. siciliabella.net
“We do wood-fired pizzas, but something we learned at the Little Italy location is to make other dishes in the oven, like steaks and baked pastas,” he said. With a full kitchen, Isola will have a menu of rotating pastas and entrees, along with Italian appetizers and of course, pizza. “It won’t be a huge menu, just a few simple items, made with good ingredients,” Tenino said. All the pasta will be made in-house and whenever possible, ingredients will be locally sourced.
The eight beers on tap will also be local. The wine, on the other hand, will be Italian. “My family owns a highly rated winery, so all the wine we have now is from my brother’s winery,” he said. “We might a few other labels from places north of Santa Barbara, but for now, it’s strictly Italian.” Further keeping things in the family, Isola was Tenino’s grandmother’s name.
As for why he chose La Jolla, Tenino said, “It reminds me of Italy and the Mediterranean, with the hills and the rocky shore. It’s a great community with a changing restaurant scene, I felt this was a good time and a good place to open.”
Isola hours will be determined once it opens. More at isolapizzabar.com
Poke on the go on Pearl Street
One of the few new eateries not bearing an Italian influence, Poke Go at 510 Pearl St., specializes in the Hawaiian raw fish dish, poke. Open since late June next to Yogi Top at the corner of Pearl Street and La Jolla Boulevard, Poke Go customers are invited to create their own custom Poke dish. Start with a base of white rice, brown rice or salad, then choose a type of fish and seasoning to top it. Options include raw ahi tuna and salmon, and cooked octopus and shrimp.
One of four locations now open a fifth is planned for Pacific Beach), Poke Go was the first restaurant in San Diego to specialize in Poke. Comparable to sushi in its raw fish and rice components, Poke Go offers bowls, plates and platters. “If you like sushi, you’ll probably like poke,” jokes co-owner Chris Park. “But sushi has been around for decades and some people get a little tired of it … they want something different.” Plus, he said, the value is there, because the smallest bowl uses the amount of fish often found on two sushi rolls, and bowls start at $7.75.
Poke Go is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. (858) 412-5258. pokesd.com
Grater Grilled Cheese on the move
In a silent shift, Grater Grilled Cheese moved from its alley-facing location at 723 Pearl St. at Mabel Bell Lane, to overtake the street facing storefront, formerly occupied by Shakeaway milkshake shop. Shakeaway in turn, is moving to another Village location, with an address and opening date to be announced. gratergrilledcheese.com