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Barbarella adds new hits to menu of classics

It’s hard to believe, but Barbarella, one of the most popular restaurants in La Jolla Shores, just celebrated its fifth anniversary.

It seems like only yesterday the restaurant opened its doors on Avenida de la Playa. Then again, can you imagine the local dining scene without this culinary treasure?

Fortunately for La Jollans and the tourist trade, Barbarella is here to stay, only the menu changes. The lunch and dinner menus at Barbarella are printed up every day to reflect the freshest seasonal ingredients available.

The ambiance at Barbarella is cozy but sophisticated. The first thing you notice when you enter the restaurant is the playful pizza oven and other amusing works of art designed by the late, internationally known artist Niki de Saint Phalle, a La Jollan herself.

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The interior dining rooms feature white walls, wooden trim and attractive wicker furniture. The tables are neatly set with fresh white cloths and napkins, and contemporary paintings line the walls.

Barbarella’s glassed-in patio is another attraction. But the lunch crowd can usually be seen sipping a glass of wine and enjoying the inspired haute cuisine from the delightful sidewalk patio. The alfresco dining area is surrounded by live plants, and it’s even pleasant on chilly nights, thanks to the many heat lamps strategically placed on the patio.

All this makes a perfect backdrop for the creative culinary offerings that come out of the kitchen. They include old standards the likes of gourmet pizza, which ranges in price from $10.95 for margherita pizza to $11.95 for unique pies, such as smoked salmon with creme fraiche and chives, Italian sausage, grilled vegetables, tomato sauce and mozzarella, and wild mushrooms with fontina cheese and truffle essence.

These mouthwatering pies are available on the dinner menu as well, and they’re almost as popular in the evening.

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The homemade pasta is another favorite that spans the lunch and dinner menu. We tried the ravioli di zucca for an appetizer during a recent dinner, and it was heavenly. The delicate ravioli was filled with Chino Farms butternut squash and roasted onions, then prepared in a brown butter and sage sauce ($8.95). What a treat.

On the same day, Barbarella offered ravioli verdura with ricotta cheese, basil, fresh tomato or lemon cream sauce ($14.95) for lunch. You never know what the chef will cook up, and that’s part of the fun of dining at Barbarella. Of course, the burgers are so fantastic, they’re a staple on both the lunch and dinner menus ($10.50 with all the fixings).

The winter salad we enjoyed was another winner. If it’s available during your visit, give it a try. This chopped salad ($9.95) was chock full of red and yellow roasted beets, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, feta cheese, avocado and lime dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds.

If you love fresh fish, Barbarella has a few selections guaranteed to please your palate. The seared wild salmon ($19.95) comes with braised fennel, spinach and Pernod wine sauce, and it’s a signature dish. You’ll always find an earthstone roasted whole fish on the menu, but it may not be the Thai pink snapper offered during our visit. And the earthstone oven really makes a difference.

Barbarella is at 2171 Avenida de la Playa. Call (858) 454-7373 for more information.