Have you ever had a meal where the stars lined up perfectly and the restaurant not only delivered far beyond expectation, but bent over backwards to make sure you knew they were dedicated to good food? Via Italia, by way of a recommendation in a coffee house in San Diego’s Little Italy, was just such a place. Via Italia Trattoria, however is not located in Little Italy. It’s in Encinitas, a bit of a drive, but our new found friend didn’t think we cared, even though she didn’t know we were changing hotels and going to be staying fairly close to Via Italia that very night. She had lived in Italy, got fat in Italy, and knew good Italian food. She named off ten Italian restaurants, but she started with Via Italia Trattoria, and that’s where we went.
She didn’t know they were extending restaurant week and we would be getting a four-course dinner at Via Italia for $30. She didn’t know they loved out of town food bloggers and they would take care of us with over the top service, some complimentary wine, and lots of love. They didn’t need to do that! I almost feel guilty. I would be gushing about their food no matter what. I too have eaten in Italy. I know my Italian food, and we’re not talking spaghetti and meatballs.
The evening started with a glass of prosecco and then the food started to arrive.
We started with a bruschetta with pork belly, rapini, and a 63º egg. Not just any egg. It was cooked sous-vide style. Best soft boiled type egg ever. Of course, it served as the creamy sauce for the tender pork belly, which I would have eaten without the bread or egg, but altogether a nice medley of textures and flavors. A nice unexpected fancy spin on rustic.
Roasted Beets, Housemade Burrata, Balsamic Caviar, Beet Mostarda. The eyes tell the story, but so does the mouth. The most impressive part of this plate, was the balsamic caviar. The chef is playful and smart and he wants you know that. The balsamic caviar is made with a molecular gastronomy trick using freezing cold olive oil and agar agar, resulting in small pearls of jelly-like balsamic.
Flat bread pizza with arugula, taleggio and crescenza cheese. At first it appeared underwhelming but it wasn’t. The price is normally $18. This might be the one dish we got the real restaurant week portion, which was fine, as we had so much food.
All pastas are housemade, which is remarkable because they have several types, including rigatoni, tagliatelle and squid ink.
Pumpkin Gnocchi, Turkey Ragout, Cranberries, Amaretti Cookies (Best Dish of the Pasta) This was dubbed Thanksgiving at our table. Imagine the flavors together with the texture and sweetness of the cranberries. Genius dish that I’ll be replicating in the Fall.
Rigatoni, Bolognese, Parmigiano. Nothing disappointing here. Rustic and hearty, but probably a dish best eaten all by itself, as it’s rather filling. (added to best bite of the year)
Tagliatelle, 63ºegg, Tesa, Parsnips, Brussels Sprout Leaves. You can already look at the dish, see the creaminess and elegance. Another sous-vide egg (I can’t have too many of those), and my only wish was more Brussels Sprouts leaves.
Porchetta, Fruit Mostarda, Rapini, polenta.
This was the favorite entree pick of the night. I have never seen porchetta on a menu. This is as authentic as it gets, rolled and crispy and the fruit cuts through the richness and is a perfect accompaniment.
Polo Ala Milanese Con Grulo e Grana. Served with a Chopped Tomato Salad. Tender chicken, breaded, and again topped a sous-vide 63ºegg, a meal in itself. I probably would have ordered something different had I not been ordering off the restaurant week menu, probably lamb chops or lamb shank.
Branzino, Radicchio Conserva, Almonds, Raisins, Lemons, Capers. Branzino, an Italian Sea Bass, was pan fried with perfect crispy skin and accompanied by a sweet and sour radicchio which was sultry and flavorful, reminding me of the food in Sicily.
It’s evident that Via Italia puts a lot of effort into bringing authentic Italian food with high quality ingredients. The menu is quite extensive, and they have Tasting menu includes scaled down portions that is worth taking a look at.
The Desserts (served with moscato)
Whatever you, save room for dessert. Usually, I wouldn’t even want dessert after such a feast, but it was part of the four-courses and so worth it.
Let’s start with my favorite, the butterscotch budino with sea salt ganache. If I could have one dessert recipe from only one restaurant, this would be it. It has a layer of chocolate that I thought was exquisite, but it would be just as good without it.
My friend, Myranda, had a different favorite, the olive oil cake with orange marmelatta and pistachio ice cream. It deserves to share the top spot, as the cake was served warm with an outside crunch and we talked about how to make the ice cream at home.
On a different day, I might want this. Lemon Curd with blueberry syrup, brown-butter almonds, Italian Meringue. It was executed perfectly, with a smooth and creamy lemony flavor offset by the berry and almonds.
In Italy, we wouldn’t dare order this past breakfast, but Mr. ST has his weakness.
The Decor is nice, but not out of the ordinary. This is a relaxed restaurant with exceptional food. Located in Northern San Diego County, in the coastal town of Encinitas, this is a neighborhood restaurant that folks ought to travel to. It was Sunday night and there was a strong customer base that looked as if they just dropped in for a bite and it wasn’t their first time. The wood burning oven promises glorious pizza. A bowl of soup or a dish of pasta could a good evening better. A tasting menu looks great for people like me who want to try everything.
The service is exceptional. Nothing makes food taste so good as when it’s served with care. Not only did our server do well by us, she treated us the way people are treated on opening night, not years into a restaurant’s history.
Here’s what I most liked about Via Italia.
It’s a place for everyone, not trendy, not pretentious, yet not typical. The chef is smart; I haven’t met him, but I just know that. The food is authentic, as the owners are from Milan, and they are staking their claim in bringing a little bit of the real Italy to America without a lot of fuss and fanfare. They do something that I find so rare in restaurants that serve good food. They pay attention to each course, and they serve good dessert. You end the meal as happy as you begin, although rather full, and that’s not because the food is old school bad Italian, but because at Via Italia Trattoria, it’s all so good.
569 S. Pacific Coast Hwy. 101
Encinitas, CA 92024