Extraordinary Desserts' Little Italy location is big in size and menu options. Photo by Kelly Davis. Extraordinary Desserts1430 Union St.Little Italy619-294-7001
I'd rather have bacon than a brownie, eat cheese instead of cheesecake, take pizza over pie and order potato pancakes before syrup-drenched ones. Though I'm not completely without a sweet tooth, potato chips still beat chocolate chips every time.
Even still, I've been to Extraordinary Desserts more than my fair share throughout the years. Before I was bar-legal, Extraordinary Desserts' original location near Balboa Park was a frequent post-dinner hangout or date-night spot. Its second location, which opened in Little Italy in 2004, is as cavernous as an airplane hangar compared with the diminutive and charming Bankers Hill cottage, with a sleek and contemporary look and a cool giftware shop. However, these are not the features that bring me back to this newer space with more frequency than the other—it's that the Little Italy location serves the tastes—namely salty and boozy—that temper the sweet and keep my attention, and palate, piqued.
I was there for a recent girls' night with my friend, her mom and her son, who was allowed to join us since he's only 6 weeks old, doesn't talk much and is totally adorable. Because of the baby, we had an early dinner, which was perfect since Extraordinary Desserts' happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, allows you to afford a meal and dessert without guilt. Half paninis are $6 and come with a side of house-made kettle chips; I like the turkey with smoked mozzarella and cranberry mayo and the Italian tuna, a gourmet melt flavored with artichoke truffle tapenade and topped with melted white cheddar. Like some have an obsession with chocolate, mine is with cheese, so the option of having both a grilled cheese and a cheese plate in one sitting is thrilling.
Of the $6 grilled cheese sandwiches, I like the fontina with roasted poblanos and pumpkin-seed pesto and the aged cheddar with sundried tomato and green olive tapenade. And for $5, you get your choice of cheese with a few slices from Bread & Cie to slather it on. I love the funky taleggio and the nutty Rogue smoked blue from Oregon. There are drink specials, too—a Stone IPA is $3, and a $15 carafe of sangria blanco (citrus and kiwi marinating in crisp white wine) is enough for three to share.
The elaborately layered and decorated cakes reflect the time and effort that goes into presentation—elements like gold-foiled fruit garnishes, hand-placed edible flowers (for the curious, orchids are kind of crunchy like lettuce, rose petals taste mildly sweet and blue cornflowers are spicy) and multi-colored swirls of sauce give each slice of plated cake the effect of one of those fancy hats ladies wear to the Del Mar Racetrack. I'm drawn more toward the lighter, fruit-centered cakes than the chocolate ones, which I find a bit too sweet and dense. If you're the same, try the ricotta tortes, which layer ricotta cake with whipped cream and fresh fruit. It comes in three varieties: passion fruit, blood orange and lemon.
But the sweet that I find truly extraordinary here is the home-made, French-style ice cream, meaning that it starts with a cooked custard base of eggs and cream, making it richer and more luscious than standard ice cream, which is usually just cream and sugar. The flavors vary daily—check the board at the front of the café—and include salted caramel, berry mascarpone, caffe latte and lemon praline, just to name a few.
If Extraordinary Desserts opened an ice-cream-only shop that sold straight-up cones and sundaes, I'd probably be there at least once a week. Might I make a suggestion for shop No. 3? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.