Mail Call on a Very Busy Day

Dish Joe Busalacchi

CORRESPONDENTS ASK the darndest questions! All kinds of letters landed in the mailbox one day last spring, quite early in April, as I recall. I’ve saved them for a rainy day in October.


Hey, Dave,

Anything interesting going on with swizzle sticks these days?

Mrs. Clinton Alexander S.,
La Jolla

Dear Mrs. S.,

Funny you should ask. Jason O’Bryan, bartender at North Park’s URBN Coal Fired Pizza, illuminates the art of swizzling. “Drinks are stirred, shaken or swizzled, but never all three,” he says. Taking a stick to a drink and “swizzling” it “is a unique method that aerates the juices and subtly combines them with the spirits … without disturbing the overall balance of the cocktail,” he explains. Old dogs can learn new tricks.


Signor Nelson,

Please, I’m told that Joe Busalacchi (pictured above) cooks the old-fashioned way at Busalacchi’s a Modo Mio. Is this true?  His hometown is near mine.

Your Biggest Fan in Palermo

Mio Caro Palermitano,

I walked into Joe’s kitchen one morning and found him staring down a mountain of plum tomatoes, pretty much re-enacting a sweaty kitchen scene in “Il Postino.” The tomatoes glared back, but Joe reduced them to sauce in no time; no freezer in his kitchen, tutti is fresh. Entertaining A.M.s at Fifth and Pennsylvania preface post-sundown gypsy jazz and other music on the patio.



Where’s my car?

Jason Y., PB 


…at an impound yard. Warned you not to turn your back on those killer Mai Tai’s at Bali Hai, where, incidentally, the late spring arrival of hot young chef Ben Lieberman was touted as the toque-topped equivalent of sliced bread. Guess the gig staled fast, because Lieberman bailed in two months.


Hey, Bud, 

You seem to know everything. A friend insists there’s a national hot dog day.  Is he off his leash?  

Thomas, Point Loma


why doubt your pal? Every dog has his day, and National Hot Dog Day howls every July 23rd, the “dog days” of summer elsewhere. Here it’s a great day to watch the Pads play. And eat hot dogs. Probably at Lucky’s Lunch Counter, the Petco-close pup tent that, says a release, takes “each dog to the next level” by adorning quality franks with options like salsa, sauerkraut and chili.  Not all at once, we hope.


Yo, Dave,

I understand a Korean restaurant in Mira Mesa serves bulgogi Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Do you endorse this kind of activity?

Bill N., University City

Yo, Bill, 

Heck yeah, why not? Pork belly, kim chee, it’s all a kick. Fuze Restaurant and Lounge jazzes Mira Mesa’s menu with crafty fare created by Chef Jae Hun Sung, like kalbi sliders and marinated short rib tacos. Thai and Japanese accents punch up the flavor vibe.  


Mr. Nelson,

I’ve been hankering for something unique-ly salty.  Any suggestions?

Mrs. M.F.K., San Carlos

Mrs. M.F.K. 

Odd you should ask. Humphreys’ Paul Murphy is the first San Diego chef to use SolarRain salt, “produced by an organic farmer at a secret location in Valley Center.” Murphy sensibly seasons sustainable seafood, the only kind he serves.     



My dad says that at my age, he and his pals hung at Hussong’s in Ensenada after they hit the waves. He says Hussong’s invented margaritas. True, or is he still hung over? 

Mike in Mission Beach

Hey, Mike,

Dad’s your bud, but he’s probably all wet, and not just when surf’s up. Not about Hussong’s, maybe, but according to Juan Carlos Ortega of Ortega’s, A Mexican Bistro, Mexicans don’t drink margaritas. They sip shots with a wedge of lime. Margaritas exist to persuade Baja visitors to buy silly t-shirts and Corona caps. BTW, what goes around comes around. Original Ortega’s chef Randy Rivera has returned to the kitchen he opened in 2005, cooking as excitingly as ever. 

DISH: By David Nelson Photography by Martin Mann

Categories: Food & Drink