Vigilucci’s offers exciting Italian dining, no pizza

Vigilucci’s Seafood, Steak and Chop House just opened its doors in La Jolla, but the restaurant group is no newcomer to San Diego. There are six other Vigilucci’s around the county, including Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside.

What makes Vigilucci’s unique among Italian restaurants is the basic concept. Pasta and pizza are not the sum and substance of this restaurant. In fact, you won’t even find pizza on the menu.

“Most people think of pasta when it comes to Italian food,” restaurateur Roberto Vigilucci said. “Our vision is to expand conceptions of Italian cuisine and offer our diners a menu filled with deliciously unique sophistication.”

That means, in addition to Italian classics, you’ll find steakhouse specialties, fresh seafood and top-quality lamb, veal and pork chops on this exciting menu. Of course, everything will be prepared with an Italian flair, and even the pastas are home-made, which puts them in a class by themselves.

Everything is special at this fine dining spot, but the owner’s favorites are labeled with a “V,” so check those out, by all means. We started our dinner with calamari Luciana ($12), a calamari dish unlike any we’ve tried. The baby calamari is sauteed with garlic and white wine in a spicy tomato sauce. The results are tasty, light and delicious.

Another spectacular starter is the scallops with baby spinach and bean sprouts ($16). The salad is topped with creamy saffron sauce, and the combination of flavors and textures is fantastic. Not surprisingly, both of these appetizers are among the house specialties. There are several other salads on the dinner menu, including a marinated seafood salad tossed with arugula and cherry tomatoes ($13).

There are almost a dozen pasta preparations on the dinner menu. We tried the pappardelle with mushrooms and pan-seared scallops ($20). It is finished off with a white truffle and brandy cream sauce. What a unique dish.

Seafood lovers can choose from about eight fish dishes. The cioppino ($30), the langostini alla Griglia ($34), the ahi tuna with prosciutto ($33), and the whole Maine lobster (MP) are all house favorites.

All the steaks are hand-cut and made from prime beef, so take your pick. We loved the filet ($33 for the eight-ounce and $41 for the 12-ounce). It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. All the steaks are served with baby vegetables and your choice of potatoes or pasta.

The rack of lamb ($40) is another specialty of Vigilucci’s, and chicken doesn’t get much better than the pollo alla Milanese ($20) we enjoyed on a recent visit. The pan-fried and pounded chicken breast is served with arugola and cherry tomatoes.

You’ll be delighted with the dessert menu - if you save room. Chocolate lovers will be in seventh heaven with the tortino al cioccolato ($11), a pairing of mini-chocolate cake and vanilla gelato accompanied by a raspberry sauce. Traditional tiramisu ($8) and cannoli ($8) are also stars on the dessert list.

The restaurant serves lunch and Sunday brunch as well as dinner, which means local diners will have plenty of opportunities to sample Vigilucci’s wares. And with six other restaurants under his belt, Vigilucci and his culinary team know how their way around the kitchen.

Several of the dinner specialties appear on the lunch menu, along with paninis and salads. You can even get a prime burger with all the trimmings ($11.50) or a crab cake version of the burger ($14.50).

Sunday brunch features New York strip steak and poached eggs ($17), chicken fried filet medallions ($14), an omelet with filet mignon tips and other ingredients ($13) and several other exciting items.

Although the atmosphere in the restaurant is elegant and upscale, it still invites casual dining. The soft beige-hued interior is a study in understatement. The front patio high above Prospect is delightful for day or evening. Not only does it have great views, it’s also very comfortable. Several heaters keep the patio cozy even on chilly nights.

The restaurant has a Happy Hour with complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 4 to 6 p.m. Live music and DJs Thursday through Saturday liven things up after the dinner service. Latin, blues and jazz are some of the sounds you’ll hear at Vigilucci’s. If you’re planning a private party, the back dining room is the perfect place for the event. It’s attractive and you’ll love the contemporary waterfall that greets you as you enter.

Vigilucci’s offers a full bar menu with oysters, crab cakes, bruchetta, truffle fries and clams on the half shell at this hip new restaurant.

Service is friendly and professional, and with its excellent menu and fine wine list, Vigilucci’s Seafood, Steak and Chop House promises to be a wonderful addition to La Jolla’s outstanding fine dining scene.

Vigilucci’s Seafood, Steak and Chop House is at 909 Prospect St. Call (858) 454-9664.