Little Italy’s Davanti Enotica – nouveau Italian

Little Italy’s Davanti Enotica – nouveau Italian

davanti – in front of enoteca – wine bar –  from the glossary on Davanti Enoteca’s menu The Italian restaurants in the St. Louis of my memory are the Cicero’s, the Rossino’s, and the Talayna’s;  a vowel-laden litany of boisterous, dimly-lit, wooden-walled, linoleum table-topped rooms filled with baseball teams, cast parties, church groups, girls’ nights out, first dates, and second anniversaries mingling with clattering trays and decades-old smoke and grime, where as high schoolers we’d share plastic pitchers of soda and crunchy iceberg salads tossed with buttery tubes of provel cheese and creamy Italian vinaigrette and as college students we’d share pitchers of Busch Light and chewy pizzas topped with sliced black olives and bacon and jalapeños. That old-school vibe was overthrown in the Foodie Revolution in favor of “nouveau Italian” – handcrafted salumi perched in pepperoni’s throne and purple pickled cauliflower in waiting on tables instead of breadsticks. And across the country in San Diego’s Little Italy, Davanti Enotica reigns as Rossino’s glamorous cousin, the ultimate finishing school graduate of the foodie revolution. Davanti Enoteca is bricked-walled and plank-floored just like those Italian restaurants of my youth, but clean – oh so clean – and decorated in a nod to the past with black and white photos of wooden Italian speedboats docked in tidy harbors and yellow #10 Marzano tomato cans stacked in tidy pyramids, then dotted with single white orchids and tiny tea lights flickering in 4-oz Ball canning jars. My glass of wine was served in a miniature carafe accompanied by an oversized stem – nice to pour just a bit at a time to sip while browsing the...
Inspiring street tacos at the Tequila Grille

Inspiring street tacos at the Tequila Grille

If you ever discover termites are devouring part of your house, and to fix that problem you must remove all the food, the medicines, the 125-gallon fish tank, the 30-gallon fish tank, the 10-gallon fish tank, and the houseplants – as well as the plants living quite heavily on the outside wooden deck – 11 potted palms, 5 potted citrus, 3 bananas, and a bird of paradise – and for a minimum of 3 days your house will look like this:   I highly recommend this as a place to wait out your banishment:   There’s absolutely nothing wrong with San Diego’s Marriott Marquis. It’s walking distance to Seaport Village, the ferry to Coronado, Gaslamp District, a cool funky shopping mall, the Midway Museum, and the trolley to Old Town and beyond. There’s a Starbucks right there in the hotel to start your day with a venti black tea and a cup of fresh fruit. There’s a big hot tub, in case it’s too cool to swim in the June Gloom. And there’s a nicely groomed lawn right there next to the pool where your kids can practice their diabolo chops.   And best of all, the Tequila Bar & Grille, their house cantina, is completely awesome. The food is interesting and tasty, served piping hot by friendly staff, and with normal restaurant prices – probably because of all the nearby competition. And it totally rocked for an awesome late lunch/early supper after our big Silver Strand bike ride. Kid Two and I ordered too much food, of course – every taco on the menu was a bit much! – but...
Retro gourmet at Craft & Commerce

Retro gourmet at Craft & Commerce

Imagine the nerdy-cool kid from high school: the quiet and deliberately unfashionable one, the one who chose to wear horn-rimmed glasses and ride his bike to school every single day, the one who actually understood all the cultural references, and who surprised everyone by nonchalantly unveiling an enormous Calvin & Hobbes tattoo on his back one day toward the end of senior year. Imagine he went on to graduate studies in Twentieth-Century American Literature and spent the requisite semester at Oxford where he fell in love with pub life, rough-hewn wood, and full-bodied beer. Then he spent a summer on his uncle’s farm, where he fell in love with state fairs and home-cooked meals and classic rock, spending pleasantly stoned evenings absorbing The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Welcome to the Machine and Court of the Crimson King through oversized headphones. Then, with newly acquired grown-up tastebuds and the deepened courage of his convictions, he made a life-changing leap to culinary school. And he was good. And so he opened a Restaurant. Imagine he approached the task philosophically, defining the vision of simplicity, value, and quality he’d experienced in his life thus far, and he used that vision to define his design, decor, and menu – inadvertently inventing a nouveau nostalgia along the way. And the rest of the world gets it because they’ve jumped on that early wave of hipster-dom he rode in his youth. Thus he created a Destination. That’s my vision, anyway, of how Craft & Commerce came to be. Call it fan fiction, foodie-style. My fantasy is based in delicious truth, though – here’s the evidence: He...
Biking the Silver Strand

Biking the Silver Strand

  I’d heard there was biking on Coronado. I took this as a personal challenge; there’s nothing more I love than than wandering down a new street or trail. There’s a thrill of discovery in experiencing a new piece of the world first-hand, the sounds and smells and weather, the secrets, all those things you’ll never find from a photo on Google Earth. So, while most vacationing families left the Marriott this particular June morning to check out Legoland or Sea World, I took the proverbial road less traveled, hustling Kid Two into a ferry across the bay to rent fat blue cruisers and take off into our unknown.   The path took us under Highway 75’s swath of blue steel toward our reward, Glorietta Boulevard, a wide, tranquil avenue smelling of eucalyptus and lined on one side with large, lovely homes gazing out over a golf course, a tennis club, the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, and Mad Men-esque towers of the Coronado Shores Condominiums. My plan was to go as far as the trail took us, so instead of a quick loop around the island we turned south at the marina, red-turreted rooftops of the Hotel Del at our backs, to Strand Way. Here it’s a proper bike path smelling of plumeria and rosemary, lilies and lantana – all tidy mounds of shrubs lining a nicely groomed trail.   I’ve led the boys down a few sketchy paths in the past, though, so Kid Two was justifiably suspicious of my plan as the trail took us from plumeria paradise past a enormous, traffic- and construction-laden compound, as we...
Bienvenidos a Old Town

Bienvenidos a Old Town

If you’re visiting San Diego for a day or four and need a good old-fashioned tourist experience, visit Old Town, the bougainvillea-studded, Mexican-restaurant filled, historic center of San Diego.   You will want to eat, and it’s honestly impossible to choose which of the Mexican restaurants to dine in. I started with this list on the neighborhood website then start cross-referencing with Yelp and Chowhound, soon falling into a spiral of uncertainty that was neither helpful nor tasty. In the end we chose Cafe Coyote. It was highly recommended by cab driver and concierge types. Yelpers swooned over their delicious tortillas.   I didn’t understand until we arrived, thought, that those beautiful flour tortillas are actually handmade in full view of the street; lovely Mexican women in embroidered puebla blouses pulling off small handfuls from the mother dough, briskly rolling them into perfect, thin, pliable circles, then cooking quickly on a hot, hot grill. These aren’t delicious tortillas; they’re fabulous tortillas. You really have to try them. Even if you’re just wandering down the street on your way to or from the Sheriff’s Museum or looking for a quiet corner to sip a cold drink, you can pause and buy 2 for $1.00 directly from the cooks. Try them in cinnamon; they’ll work a spoonful of the spice right into the dough – then slather with a slab of butter and munch as you walk.   Wandering past the trompe l’oeil walls toward the restroom, I had a sudden memory blast of eating in the same restaurant almost 30 years ago – the summer I spent in San Diego as a mother’s helper for...
Soft pretzel by the sea

Soft pretzel by the sea

Seaport Village, to be exact, where Kid Two and I are hiding out while our house is being termite-proofed. Banishment at the Marriott Marquis is not a so bad … here is our view:   We slept in, finally venturing out about noon for breakfast and found these enormous buttery soft pretzels at Wetzel’s: Missing Kid One and the pup, otherwise a perfect way to start a summer...