San Diego Vacation: Osteria Panevino

After the scrumptious breakfast we had, we did a little exploring, came back to the hotel to await a friend, and then had lunch at a little place called Lucky’s Lunch Counter. It was decent but not worth writing about.

After I dropped the missus off at her conference, I did a little scouting. I found some fun local foodie places (but they’re for another post).

The Gaslamp District of San Diego is turning out to be the Hydra of restaurant quarters. Every time we’re on our way to a good place to eat, we find three that look just as interesting. But, knowing it was going to be a busy night, I had already made reservations at Osteria Panevino.

It’s a small place that maybe seats 75, but the menu was just too good to pass up. Traditional Tuscan foods with intriguing modifications is just one of the many ways to my heart. San Diego, with its ever-present gorgeous weather, is just the place to enjoy a glass of vino in the outdoor patio (with the missus near a heat lamp, of course).

Our appetizer of Tartare di Tonno e Granchio was a big surprise. Somehow both of us missed that it was going to be topped with caviar. Oddly enough, this was my first experience with it. It was both ineffable and weird. This is my best explanation for the taste: tiny, salty fish grapes. This particular variety was very small and exploded with brine and sea spray. Atop the tuna and crab, they made for an appropriate counterbalance of flavor. The mixture had the right amount of spice, salt, and fat to get the palate going.

After that, the missus eagerly tore into her Filetto Di Manzo (filet, wilted spinach, mashed potatoes, and Chianti reduction) with a glass of Quattri Mani Montepulciano.

I, on the other hand, had the Paccheri Alla Carbonara.

Along with my affinity for all thing cheesy, I always try to sample the Carbonara at any Italian place I go. When I was a teenager living in Europe (military dependent), we had a family vacation in Rome. My father, already a trained chef in the Belgian Gastronomic Society, wanted to explore for rustic dishes. When he heard about a dish that all the coal miners (called the Carbonari) used to eat to get them ready for a calorie-burning day in the mines, we had to try it. And I was immediately hooked.

There are many variations on the dish and each has their strengths. I’m more partial to a fresh pea, bacon, mushroom, egg yolk, and Parmesan mixture, but the dish at Osteria would rank fairly high on my list. It was creamy with delicately sliced mushrooms and pancetta served over paccheri noodles. With a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay, it made for a very nice evening.

The meal was a bit pricey ($50/person + tip), but it was well worth it.


About Gerard

Fun-loving, well-read foodie.
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