Little Italy's Big Apple Asipirations

NEW YORKERS DOUBTLESS WOULD GIGGLE at anyone so audacious as to suggest that the slice of downtown known as Little Italy is taking on Big Apple aspects, but it is. In a year or so, there will be light in a new piazza replacing the stretch of Date Street between Columbia and India streets — a sort of landscaped side dish to a ritzy building rising alongside Cafe ZuccherO. Frank Busalacchi, who manages CZ and occasionally confects gelati from fruit harvested in his home’s back yard, eagerly notes that ground-floor restaurant spaces in the residential tower are being marketed at rents previously beyond the imaginations of Little Italy restaurateurs. 

THE CONCLUSION AFTER AGREEING to try an all-American chocolate-chip cookie al' Italiano at Little Italy’s Pappalecco? Don’t mess with Granny. A writer who typically strides past without succumbing to his sweet tooth tumbled in one afternoon and fell victim to the when-in-Rome syndrome by saying, “OK” when the server offered to heat a large, delicious-looking and rather expensive chocolate-chip cookie. This evidently is how Pappalecco patrons prefer our national cookie. And since when do Italians duck down the wrong culinary corridor? When they return chipsters to the oven. Handed over in a sack, it was a sticky, nasty mess of too-soft-to-eat dough and molten chocolate that spread everywhere without sowing seeds of delight. So when in San Diego, do as Granny does and eat your chocolate-chip cookie at room temperature.

YOU CAN’T SAY THAT local chefs aren’t inventive, but you might wish they thought things through before offering novelties that spring from the desire to be different. According to a server, this desire provides the raison d’etre behind the cream cheese added to an otherwise admirable club sandwich at JRDN in Pacific Beach’s Tower23 Hotel. Obviously intended as a tasty alternative to mayo, it seems an unctuous enrichment best described as cloying. It did succeed in differing from the usual club, just as would a black gown at a wedding. And goodness, what would the proprietors of Convoy Street dim sum palaces say about the “Mexican dim sum menu” introduced by The Blind Burro near Petco Park? Quite a number of these very original creations size-wise mimic the Chinese mouthfuls and circulate on carts, just as at legit dim sumaries. To describe one, the “potato taquito” is assembled on a little tortilla filled with a “mash” of potatoes and parsnips with carrot-serrano purée, escabeche and queso cotija. On the other hand, you have well-considered creativity at The Wooden Spoon in Escondido. Jesse Paul, the culinary talent who long helmed Vivace at Carlsbad’s Park Hyatt Aviara before leaving for Trattoria Via Italia in Encinitas, retreats from the Italian vibe at his and wife Catherine’s new restaurant. The multicultural menu shines with offerings such as a soup of celeriac with matzo balls and soffrito; chicken-fried sweetbreads with aioli; and the “house roughage,” otherwise known as salad, which flavorfully accents baby greens with apple and miso vinaigrette. There’s a vegetarian entrée of Japanese eggplant with cauliflower “couscous,” shiitake mushrooms and green curry.

IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE a more user-friendly kit than the one Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa on Mission Bay includes in its Spring Break package that runs through June 20. Besides the sweet-and-crunchy components for s’mores, the kit comes with enough firewood to get a nice blaze going in a fire pit.

 BE VERY, VERY AFRAID. Current trends in Los Angeles that could seep down here include smart phone apps that allow — or require — you to purchase restaurant reservations at a fee of $5 to $30. Really. What’s more, guests hoping to dine at several ultra-hot eateries have to join lotteries in hopes of winning tickets that will get them through the door. Its a far cry from sidling into downtown San Diego’s Dobson’s knowing that, however crowded, Paul will find you a table. 



Categories: Food & Drink