Business Report: Village adds new flavors, sights, services


While key storefronts on Girard Avenue remain vacant — including the former Burns Drugs and Cups bakery spaces and those at the new La Plaza La Jolla shopping center (where construction of interior spaces to be leased by at least three tenants is behind schedule) — other business have opened shop or relocated, assuring the commercial pulse is alive and well in the Village.

Piazza 1909, a new Italian restaurant from the husband and wife team of Roberta Ruffini-Ceresoli and Stefano Ceresoli, has opened at 7731 Fay Ave. in a 1909 beach cottage that formerly housed Aloha Sushi Lounge.

The business opened last month for lunch service, though the owners plan to begin serving dinner in June, and open a back patio which seats about 60 for private parties and wine-tasting events by mid-summer.

The Milan natives formerly launched Caffe Bella Italia in Pacific Beach and Solare Ristorante in Liberty Station (which they sold in 2008), before setting their sights on La Jolla, taking some down time in between to spend with their three teenage sons and travel to Italy.

The restaurant specializes in Northern Italian cuisine, with a modern twist.

Ruffini-Ceresoli said the cottage, originally named “The Brodiaea,” has retained much of its charm, including touches such as a brick fireplace they uncovered when a soda machine was moved. “It was a nice surprise,” she said. “In the winter, we plan to use it.”

The couple moved to San Diego in 1996, after several extended visits, during which they fell in love with the area. Ruffini-Ceresoli said that in the 20 years since they’ve been here, San Diegans’ knowledge of traditional Italian cooking has dramatically increased from the days when customers at their first restaurant asked for Americanized Italian hybrids such as Chicken Parmesan, fettuccine Alfredo and torpedo sandwiches. “If you ask for these things in Italy, nobody knows what these are.”

Dishes at Piazza 1909 that embody the couple’s ethos of returning to simpler, traditional Italian cooking, with a spark of creativity, include their house-made linguini, gnocchi or ravioli, the latter stuffed with ingredients such as portabella mushrooms or red beets and ricotta cheese. Other standouts include the Crudo and Rucola pizza topped with mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula and their house tomato sauce, made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes — considered by many chefs to be the best plum tomatoes in the world.

The eatery’s take on Bruschetta (“Bruscaccia”) is made with their homemade focaccia bread and topped with roasted bell peppers and eggplant “Caponata,” a Sicilian spread also containing fresh onion, celery, tomatoes, capers and pine nuts.

Ruffini-Ceresoli said she and her husband chose La Jolla for their newest culinary venture based on the revival they saw occurring, including the new cinema complex under construction on Fay Avenue and the La Jolla Music Society’s planned performing arts center, to be located across the street from the cinemas. When they found out the “cute little house” with copious outdoor patio seating was available, the restaurateurs jumped.

Ruffini-Ceresoli said in the summer she hopes to take more advantage of the patio at Piazza (Italian for public square, market or gathering place) and screen vintage Italian films on the wall outside their business.

Other new dining options

La Clochette du Coin coffee shop (French for “Little Bell on the Corner”) has opened at 6830 La Jolla Blvd., Suite 101 in WindanSea, serving organic coffees and teas and French pastries. The owners are brother and sister Willy and Karine Wu Jye Hwa, who grew up in Madagascar.

Two doors down, in the same building, La Jolla Tap and Grill is expected to open the first week of July, featuring American coastal cuisine with farm-to-table ingredients, burgers, salads, chicken wings and healthy plates, plus an array of local beers on tap. The owners are Charles Couri and Justin La Frantz of New Restaurant, Inc. who launched several other restaurant ventures around town, including Pillbox Tavern in Solana Beach.

Mango Mango’s will open at 627 Pearl St., featuring juices, smoothies, salads, tortas and sandwiches. The owners are husband and wife Max and Anna Maldonado, who own taco shops in Escondido and Carmel Mountain Ranch, and opted to expand their business in the Village.

A shoe-in: Mohammed Alami, a third-generation shoe repairman, who hails from Morocco, has moved his shoe repair business of more than 20 years from Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach to 7514 La Jolla Blvd. (near Pearl Street). He specializes in orthopedic shoe adjustments and repairs boots, shoes, luggage, wallets and handbags (for which he also offers custom dyeing).

“I’ve been doing this all my life,” Alami said. “I don’t take shortcuts. I do all the work. I’ve got brand new equipment from Germany, and my supplies and leather goods are all from Italy.”

Nearby, WindanSea commercial photographer Jamie Dickerson has opened J. Dixx Photography studio and art gallery in the second story at 7480 La Jolla Blvd. (in the same building as Baskin-Robbins).

The University of San Diego graduate held her grand opening May 5. The space serves as a studio for her commercial work and a gallery for local artists, including WindanSea painter Letty Nowak (known for her popular “Faces of Surfing” series), and Iranian-American artist Sholeh Ashtiani.

A wedding, event and food photographer, Dickerson’s work can be seen at

Lesa Tomaiko has moved her full-service hair and nail salon (formerly Sage Salon) from the site on Fay Avenue where La Jolla Music Society will develop its performing arts complex (“The Conrad”) to a new location in south La Jolla, at 675 Turquoise St., rechristening her business Turquoise Salon. A grand opening is planned for 1-4 p.m. Saturday, June 6.

A lifetime of fitness: Jeremy Manning has relocated his popular personal training business, La Jolla’s Finest Training, from Bishop’s Lane to a ground-floor space in the building at 565 Pearl St.

Manning, owner and head trainer, says many of his clients are in their 50s or older, have gone through the spectrum of fitness fads and walked through his door looking for the “magic answer.” His response and mantra is always the same: “training day is every day.”

“It’s just consistency,” said Manning, who started his La Jolla fitness consulting and training business in 1997, after completing a tour as a U.S. Naval Helicopter Search and Rescue Swimmer. “As long as you apply the proper stimulus consistently, over time, you’re going to get there.”

Manning says it is important for clients to have a specific goal, so he and his team of elite trainers can help open the door to achieve their goals.

“Youth opens all the doors,” he said. “As life goes on, the doors start shutting. We’re not going to make you a superstar in the gym. We’re going to keep you out there, so you can do your sport (while avoiding injury). We’re in it for the long haul.”

Everett Stunz moving to UTC mall: After 53 in the Village of La Jolla, Everett Stunz bedding, mattress and linen shop will close its doors at 7616 Girard Ave., and consolidate operations at a 7,500-square-foot store it opened in UTC Westfield Mall last year. All La Jolla inventory, including floor models, is on sale at the Girard location prior to the move.