Little Italy: Wandering along India Street in Little Italy one quickly realizes the overwhelming number of restaurant choices. If you want to go beyond the familiar spaghetti and meatball fare, La Villa is your place. The restaurant belongs to a group that began in 2000 with Trattoria Itrulli in Encinitas and now includes other venues in Little Italy: Buon Appetito, Tazza D’Oro, Sogno di Vino and The Market by Buon Appetito. It’s a Buzz favorite for many reasons.
First, they finally got their website up and running and now you can see the menu of innovative dishes from chef Chris O’Donnell. He uses locally sourced seasonal ingredients to create–without fussiness–interesting and approachable food with a rustic Italian touch. O’Donnell enjoys changing the aspects of some of his dishes almost weekly which can be a frustrating for diners who come back for a favorite only to find it revamped within weeks. At times, even the kitchen can’t keep up with a tweaked dish. One recent night the wild mushroom pizza changed that day to include fresh morels and other ingredients, but the kitchen delivered the original version first, then rectified the error.
There’s patio seating, (with heaters and even a cozy corner sofa), a chef’s table in the bustling kitchen (seats 12 or so, but just two can dine there too) and an interesting wine list that includes a small (and growing) selection of half bottles. Yes, you read that correctly. Reasonably priced, real half bottles, not carafes masquerading as “half bottles.” Among the choices you’ll find a 2008 Schramsberg sparkling wine ($27) and a delicious 2009 Storybook Estate Zinfandel ($26).
Cocktails go well with my favorite (thankfully unchanged) avocado bruschetta–toasted baguette slice with a smear of avocado, topped with sliver of hard-boiled egg and dotted with capers ($10). A recent meal included that Storybook along with a fresh morel, baby chard leaves, ramps and a sprinkle of fresh English peas pizza ($18), a perfectly cooked (that means not chewy) grilled octopus tentacle salad ($14) and squash agnolotti with fresh favas and squash blossoms delicately plated and lightly accented with tomato sauce and pesto ($17). Fish, meats and chicken preparations vary as noted above–sometimes more often than one might wish–all good however.
The front of the house offers effortless and helpful service. A recent wine dinner seated the 65 plus diners at tables of 8 to 10 people. A smart idea that allowed a table to be completely served at once, thus the kitchen was able to work smoothly with the wine service and no one was left wondering when their food would arrive. Food paired well with the wines and more dinners are in the offing. Full disclosure: Though I know the GM and chef, I pay for my meals. La Villa, 1646 India Street, Little Italy, 619-255-5221, open daily from 11:30am.
Point Loma: Word on the street about the construction in the long vacant building on the corner of Nimitz and Rosecrans that Vons once occupied: It will soon be Ralphs. Expect the new store to open about May 10.