This week I finish up the cluster of eateries on Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores. Three well-known restaurants anchor the street: Piatti Ristorante, Osteria Romantica and Barbarella, all open daily for lunch and dinner. The smaller venues of El Charro, Yummy Sushi, Rudy's Café and House of Pizza round out the many choices and La Jolla Shores Market and Neighbor-Savor Food Market (it opens at 7 a.m.) supply everything from beach balls and film to roasted chickens and vegetables.
Newest on the block is El Charro. Owned by the same family that opened Yummy Sushi a few doors down, El Charro's a good addition to the street.
Order at the counter and they'll call your number when your food is ready. Soft tacos are wrapped in two six-inch tortillas to hold the substantial fillings. For carne asada lovers, the taco is all meat (though the guacamole topping is somewhat unremarkable) served simply with a lime. The generous fish taco is composed of breaded fish (too much breading for my taste), finely shredded cabbage and a fresh tomato, onion and cilantro salsa with a lime wedge to round out the flavors. House-made chips and salsas are worthy as are the prices-$2.85 for the fish taco and $2.95 for the carne asada taco. The menu includes the usual combos of enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas and nachos. Breakfast from 7 a.m. 2175 Avenida de la Playa, 858-459-7900.
Up early to surf? Grab a coffee and light breakfast at Rudy's Café, open at 6 a.m., or join locals on the patio for a sandwich or salad. 2168 Avenida de la Playa, 858-454-5665.
Piatti is one of my long-time favorites from its inception in the Napa Valley years ago. Though part of a small chain, it operates with its own menu that uses local ingredients, especially produce. I love the bar, even with its low ceiling, because it's perfect for a good drink, a mushroom-and-goat-cheese pizza and a shmooze with bar manager Michael or any of the others who tend there. There is patio dining as well. The menu isn't huge, but you'll find steamed mussels, braised short ribs and osso buco (braised veal shank) on Thursdays, along with homemade ravioli and other pastas and salads. 2182 Avenida de la Playa, 858-454-1589.
Barbara Beltaire cut her restaurant teeth managing Piatti in its early years. She jumped across the street six years ago to start Barbarella, where she creates a seasonal, innovative menu that includes steak and frites (fries), pastas and a few pizzas. Here you can sit inside or on the street patio that fits the casual seaside neighborhood. There is a tiny bar, too. 2171 Avenida de la Playa, 858-454-7373.
Osteria Romantica is a neighborhood and family friendly place where Italian is spoken and tables are close to give it a cozy, homey feel. I like their homemade gnocchi baked with Parmesan cream sauce and they have an interesting selection of salads and entrées, all priced under $19.95. 2151 Avenida de la Playa, 858-551-1221.
Half a block off Avenida de la Playa on Camino del Sol is the tiny House of Pizza, another long-time staple in the neighborhood. The pepperoni pizza is good and the most popular. Best for take out, since there is no indoor seating and only a few sidewalk tables. 8107 Camino del Sol, 858-551-0125.
San Diego's dessert scene comes of age with the addition of the upscale Heaven Sent Desserts in North Park. This isn't your usual chocolate decadence, ho-hum place; it's a destination you'll want to try. The desserts are something I would expect to find in a fine-dining restaurant. Brothers Sean Davis and Tristan and Lachlan Oliver, along with their executive pastry chef, Tracey Heffernan (newly arrived from Texas), create exquisite presentations using ingredients and ideas from around the world. For example, in a whimsical play on the well-known Italian salad of mozzarella and tomatoes, Heffernan plates a silky vanilla panna cotta (literally translated “cooked cream”) with halved fresh strawberries, balsamic syrup and a sprinkling of fresh basil. 3001 University Ave. at 30th 619-793-4758. www.heavensentdesserts.net.
Blanca, the newest addition to upscale restaurants in Solana Beach, opens late April. It's in the Beachwalk complex with California Pizza Kitchen and Pacific Coast Grill at 437 S. Highway 101. The menu will feature contemporary California cuisine and local ingredients. The restaurant is a venture of Debbie Hugonin and Seth Baas, nephew of Padres owner John Moores.
Two places I plan to try: Batter Up!, in Market Creek Plaza on Euclid Avenue at Market Street in Southeast San Diego features baseball-themed décor and a fast-food menu with burgers, fried fish and sides. www.gobatterup.com. Then there's Lanna for Thai food in the same strip mall as Sushi Ota on Mission Bay Drive at Garnet Avenue. www.lannathaicuisine.com.
Part 1 of La Jolla Shores restaurants appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of CityBeat.