Friday, December 28, 2012

“A Little Slice of Italy…

is the best way to describe the service and dishes you will be presented with at San Diego’s…Buon Appetito. And…it is absolutely true. Located in the ‘Little Italy’ area of San Diego, Buon Appetito charms you the second you stroll under its awning and slip through its doors.

“The restaurant is quaint and unassuming; an intimate venue that showcases the simplicity and sophistication of what a local favorite can offer. The tables are close to each other both inside the small room and outside on the patio, creating a café appeal, reminiscent of a European street corner.

"A wood laden bar sits off to one side, ready to stir you up a pleasant cocktail or pour you a glass of Chianti. Surrounding you are rows and rows of bottles of wine in wood cased shelves and holders” (Kevin Leap and Steve Persitza at

“Buon Appetito brings food, wine, and art together…Buon Appetito has an upscale Euro look outside with its wheat-colored walls, navy awnings, and wrought ironwork. More like a crowded café inside, the restaurant’s bright space is also an art gallery with monthly-changing exhibits” (

On the day of our visit, the walls were hung with the works of San Diego self-taught artist Gina Palmerin, who describes her works as: “Each painting is a window view into a different time and place where the future meets the past capturing the imagination…” ( The painting depicting a golfer atop a roof is entitled “The Gold Club.”

The other is "Albatross." While I know nothing about art history, to me these works were evocative of the art deco period.

As soon as we were seated, a basket of wonderful house-baked bread was placed on the table along with a small dish of room temperature marinara that tasted of basil, garlic, and a moderate amount of red chile flake. And, since we were dining so civilly (for a change), we decided to start with wine to accompany the bread. For Chuck it was the house red.

I chose one of the lunch wine specials—Nero di Troia di Colle Petrito. “Colle Petrito is a cooperative of wineries in the Apulia region of Southern Italy…. For years, Colle Petrito concentrated on growing white grapes…but recently it has been paying great attention to the production of Nero di Troia, Aglianico, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon” (

Before ordering, Chuck and I debated whether to share an appetizer—especially the carpaccio of the day with thin sliced beef and arugula—or a dessert. So I asked our server whether the dessert menu would have something that I couldn’t resist. After he produced said menu, the decision was made. Goodbye carpaccio. On to the main course.

I narrowed my choice to two—Fettuccini alla Montanara with wild mushrooms sautéed in a brandy sauce with English peas or Linguini allo Scoglio with fresh clams, mussels, bay scallops, and shrimp. My love of wild mushrooms ruled. This was a wonderful dish of pasta. The fettuccini was perfectly al dente. There were enough earthy and woodsy mushrooms to satisfy any mushroom lover. And the sauce contained just a hint of the slightly sweet and slightly smoky taste of good brandy.

Before discussing Chuck’s dish, I need to make something clear. I am no expert on food. What I know comes from years watching the Food Network, Cooking Channel, Saturday afternoon programming on PBS, and Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel. But I am a woman of strong opinions and, to me, Chuck’s dish didn’t quite work.

He chose Capellini alla Checca. Checca sauce is made with fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and mozzarella and “is actually one of the most popular summer recipes in Italy…. There is no explanation of why it's called ‘pasta della checca’ (translated as ‘Queer's pasta’). Still this dish, typical for Rome cuisine, is well known and loved by many” (

And the sauce was delicious, although made with larger chunks of tomato than we expected. But I think that capellina was the wrong choice of pasta. The pasta was just too thin to carry the weight of the large tomato chunks. But the sauce would have been wonderful with a hardier pasta—penne, for example.

So what was the dessert that made us pass on the carpaccio? The chocolate and hazelnut gelato tartufo. “Tartufo (tahr-too-foh) is an Italian ice-cream dessert…usually composed of two or more flavors of ice cream, often with either fruit syrup or frozen fruit…in the center” ( Here a pocket of chocolate syrup replaced the fruit, and the tartufo and plate were dusted with powdered chocolate and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Delicious.

If not for the capellini, this would have been a 5.0 Addie lunch. Buon Appetito has everything. Great service. Great atmosphere. And very good—but not great food. I suspect that had Chuck ordered a different pasta dish, 5.0 Addies would have been awarded. Instead, the restaurant only earns 4.0 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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