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Come On In is restaurant, cafe and bakery all in one

When a restaurant calls itself Come On In, you know the welcome mat is always out - and at this friendly neighborhood eatery, that welcome starts early in the morning and continues through breakfast and lunch every day of the week. The atmosphere is informal, but when the restaurant opens for dinner (at 5 p.m. daily) Come On In takes on a little more sophisticated air.

This intimate restaurant has been a favorite with the local crowd for about 13 years, and it’s no mystery why Come On In has such a strong track record. Owner Albert Sifuentes takes pride in the fact that Come On In serves three meals a day - every day - in addition to its excellent bakery.

The wonder is that everything can be made from scratch in the restaurant’s one and only kitchen. The bakery items alone number in the dozens, so even folks that don’t stay for a meal, often come on in for the great coffee and pastries - and to stock up on cakes, cookies, muffins and other delectables. With its warm and friendly interior - a mix of butter yellow walls, cozy tables and outdoor areas, the restaurant is always as welcoming as its name. The inside has a seating capacity for 28, but many regulars prefer to dine on the patio facing Torrey Pines Road - especially when the weather is sunny and balmy. Come On In’s pleasant corner of this mini-restaurant row is always bustling on weekends.

The lunch menu abounds with appealing salads, sandwiches and home-made soups. Don’t miss the signature Come On In salad ($8.95), a mix of field greens, caramelized pecans, gorgonzola cheese and green apple slices - topped with chunks of grilled chicken. It comes with a delicious balsamic dressing, and it’s one of the best salads in town.

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Among the other tempting salads on the lunch menu are traditional Cobb, arugula with shaved parmesan and poached chicken, tuna or curried chicken salad, and baby spinach with crumbled blue cheese and other ingredients, then tossed with an apple pecan dressing. The salads range in price from $4.95 for Caesar to $8.95.

Try one of the focaccia sandwiches. Vegetarians love the roasted eggplant with grilled zucchini, bell peppers, tomato and mozzarella ($6.95). But this hearty sandwich is so good, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy it. Like all the sandwiches at Come On In, this one is served with assorted greens on the side.

If you love a good burger, try the 100% Angus beef patties at Come On In. These beauties, served with all the fixings and a green salad, cost $7.50 ($7.95 with cheese).

Come On In takes on a different personality for dinner. The lighting is softer, tablecloths and cloth napkins are used, and the wait staff provides sit-down service. No ordering at the counter for the dinner crowd.

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As the menu states, “The idea of Come On In dinner time is based on a Euro Bistro, with different flavors from all over Europe.” Of course, the food still has a California flair, with fresh ingredients and daily specials, and many of the entrees owe their flavors to Italian cuisine.

Come On In’s new dinner menu expands on the original menu, but as Manager Guillermo Ferrari explained, “We know our customers, and we make custom orders. The chef is always willing to do something that’s not on the menu.” The pastas are fantastic, especially the gnocchi which many agree is the best around. These home-made potato dumplings ($13) come with four-cheese sauce or sorrentina-style, but of course the chef will oblige you if you prefer a different preparation.

Black ink linguine ($14) is a newcomer to the pasta menu, and it’s served with shrimp in a spicy marinara sauce. The cannelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta ($14) is another new addition to the popular dinner menu.

The entrees featured on the new menu include a wonderful ahi tuna salad ($17). The ahi is seared and blackened and served over mixed field greens. Old standards remain, such as veal parmesan ($18), veal marsala and piccata ($18 each), salmon with pine nuts, golden raisins, and sweet red onions ($18), tender beef medallions with fresh tomato ($19), and scampi Francese (in a lemon white wine sauce, $18).

If you love lamb shank, be sure to visit Come On In on Thursdays, when they serve these shanks - braised with fresh mint, apples and fresh vegetables in a Barolo wine reduction sauce ($19).

The extensive appetizer list features black bean chili ($4.50, a vegetarian black bean chili topped off with cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro) and baked eggplant with mozzarella ($8) among other delightful dishes. One of the new appetizer items is swordfish carpaccio with arugola and hearts of palm ($10). What an unusual treat that is!

Casual breakfasts and brunches are always fun at Come On In. The choices include Portobello omelet with fresh tomato, basil and Swiss cheese ($6.95), corn meal pancakes (served with your choice of banana, strawberries or two eggs, $6.95) and home-made granola with milk and fruit ($4.50).

Come On In is a restaurant, a cafe and a bakery all rolled into one friendly destination. The restaurant features a fine wine list and catering is available as well. Reasonable prices are another reason for Come On In’s success, and you can find parking right outside the door.

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Come on In is located at1030B Torrey Pines Road. For more information call (858) 551-1063.