“The usual for you two?” asked our waiter. “Sure,” I said. He'd never served us before, but I was feeling snarky enough to play along. “OK,” he responded, turning toward the kitchen and walking away before returning to the table to take our order.
Such schtick, which sometimes involves staff and patrons bursting into song, is de rigeur at Point Loma's family-owned La Scala. La Scala means “the scale” in Italian, and the reason for the name becomes apparent when you see the stage set-up with a piano, lighting rig and microphone stands.
I'd seen a flier in the window of a piano school near my office advertising “An Evening in Italy Dinner Show with Celebrated Comedian Tenor, Luigi Luevano and Maestro Luder Palacios.” Having enjoyed La Scala's food in the past, I figured I'd take my girl to check out Luevano's vocal stylings.
La Scala is cozy, dimly lit and decorated with wood-veneer-paneled walls, Christmas light-adorned silk plants and trees and nautically themed statues. The menu is timeless; there's nary a mention of sun-dried tomatoes or pine nuts. Instead, it's filled with dishes like cannelloni, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and pizza.
We settled into a candlelit booth and perused our menus while listening to Palacios' rendition of the classic “Besame Mucho.” We opted to split two old-school classics, Veal Marsala and a small antipasto.
The antipasto was pretty impressive. It was made from fresh romaine lettuce, marinated carrots and parsnips, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, thinly sliced salami, cheese and mortadella and dressed with a zesty Italian vinaigrette. The marinated vegetables were richly flavored with olive oil and oregano, and the salad wasn't drowning in dressing.
The Veal Marsala was also very nice. Here, veal cutlets are breaded and lightly fried before being covered in a rich sauce made from mushrooms, marsala wine and butter. More of the same sauce tops a side of al dente spaghetti. The veal was tender and flavorful, the sauce applied with a light touch.
If veal isn't your thing, another excellent option is the Tortellini Alfredo-cheese tortellini covered in an absurdly rich butter and cheese-laden cream sauce. As with the Veal Marsala, one order is enough for two to share, given the richness of the dish.
An advantage of splitting a meal is it leaves room for dessert. La Scala's dessert selection is small but traditional, consisting of gelato, cannoli and zabaglione-a fresh custard made by whisking egg yolk, sugar and marsala wine rapidly in a double boiler. When I asked our waiter about the zabaglilone, he quipped, “It's great-it comes in a packet and you add water and shake it up. It comes with a cassette to make the whisking sound.” What a card.
Served in a wine glass, the zabaglione is warm, rich and creamy. La Scala uses a dry marsala to make the zabaglione, so it's not too sweet and instead serves as a rather light meal ender.
La Scala prices its dishes reasonably, considering the size of the portions. Pasta dishes go for $11.95, chicken dishes $15.95 and veal and seafood options are around $17. The pasta dishes are a la carte, but the meat dishes come with choice of soup or salad (go with the salad) and garlic bread. They also offer a dinner for two with a choice of lasagna or spaghetti, wine, salad and garlic bread for $33.50.