The roasted half chicken was on the list of specials for lunch and I wanted to eat something relatively healthful after the sumptuous Italian dinner I had the night before at de’ Medici Cucina Italiana in the Gaslamp section of San Diego.
It was a sunny and mild lunch hour at La Villa in the resurgent Little Italy neighborhood. Though I usually shun outdoor dining because I don’t like sharing my meal with flies, this day just called out for patio dining.
We ordered a plate of roasted cauliflower for the table and I ordered the roasted chicken. I don’t recall ever having a better serving of chicken. It was brined and then cooked in the wood fire oven. The skin was evenly golden; the breast meat was moist and the leg and thigh were perfect. It was served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes alongside steamed rapini.
My nephew Bryan ordered the special of grilled scallops that came with a lovely light gold sheen on the outside and were grilled just enough to leave the centers moist and tasty.
The dinner menu offers 10 antipasti including grilled quail, fried baby calamari, grilled polenta with wild mushrooms, a salumi and cheese plate, and an assortment of burrata, caprese, and carpaccio. It’s perfect for a party of four to share.
There’s an impressive array of 16 pasta dishes with ragu, Bolognese, mushroom, tomato, pesto and other sauces. And then there are the dozen meat or fish dishes – lamb, rabbit, veal, chicken, beef, salmon, sword fish, shrimp, cioppino, and a catch of the day.
The wood fire oven, located perfectly to send aromas into the patio, turns out worthy pizzas. The patio itself is tastefully appointed. It’s alongside the restaurant and feels separate from the sidewalk and street.
The restaurant room is sleek and modern. There’s a bar that draws a healthy happy hour crowd.
The concept of a Little Italy as an upscale destination is relatively new in San Diego. The area isn’t very large. But La Villa looms large in the local dining scene.