As you may know, I just got home from almost a month in Italy (articles on that coming soon!) – and the number one thing I miss is the FOOD. Before I left, many people said the food in Italy wasn’t what they expected. I found the opposite. Perhaps it’s just where you eat, but I loved homemade pasta in Sorrento and Milan, prawns with spaghetti in Sicily, open-faced lamb ravioli in Tuscany, fresh caprese in Florence, and $5 margherita pizzas everywhere that could rival the best $20 pizza in the States. Plus the gelato. And the cappuccino. And the…oh man, there go the salivary glands.
Luckily for me, I know a fantastic Italian restaurant right here in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. Osteria Panevino is the most authentic Italian eatery I know in San Diego, mostly because all the dishes are based off homemade Italian recipes. The warm, cozy interior is modeled after a traditional Tuscan farmhouse, while even the terra cotta tiles and marble are imported from Italy. Plus, the staff is Italian (some hardly speak English), including the sweetheart of a GM, Annalisa. Even the owners are Sicilian – including Executive Chef Vincenzo Loverso, who learned he had an affinity for food when he was very young, working with his nonna in a Sicilian bakery.
Vincenzo is kind, warm, and funny – the kind of classic Italiano you’ll find with a pack of cigarettes in his pocket and a cup of espresso somewhere very near his person. He has a thick accent, a genuine smile, a generous middle, and damn, can he cook.
I was lucky enough to attend a private tasting dinner at Panevino a couple weeks ago. After just one glass of wine, I felt like I was back in Italy and could have just cried over how amazingly delicious every single bite of my food was. The 4-course (7-dish) meal was served family-style, but we had more than enough to eat (and drink.)
Vincenzo served his masterpieces to the group right next to my seat at the end of the table. Which meant two things: 1) I got to see everything before it was attacked and devoured, and 2) Vincenzo pinched my cheeks and called me “bella” more than once. Of course, with a blueberry lemontini, two glasses of wine, and rich buttery Italian food in my veins, I heartily laughed and appreciated this journey back to Italy – where both these things happened on a regular basis.
But you’re not reading this to hear how I giggle over being called beautiful in Italian. (At least, I assume you’re not.) You want to hear about the foooood.
So here it is – all 7 dishes in their incredible glory, with descriptions straight from the menu. I highly recommend….all of them.
Fresh mozzarella with grilled zucchini, eggplant and organic tomatoes with fresh basil
Tartare di Manzo
Prime filet tartare, with shallots, black truffle, and quail egg
Prima Piatti (First Course)
Risotto Radicchio e Gamberetti
Creamy arborio rice with red radishes, shrimp, and asparagus in a white wine parmesan cheese
Combinazione di Ravioli
A combination of house-made lobster ravioli in a butter and sage emulsion sauce, and lamb meat-filled ravioli in a wild mushroom/garlic/rosemary sauce
Secondi (Second Course)
Veal shank slowly braised with red wine, served with diced vegetables over saffron risotto
Spigola ai Pomodorini
Chilean seabass pan-seared in a cherry tomato/garlic/white wine sauce, served with lobster mashed potatoes
Variety of chef’s selection, including tiramisu and limoncello cheesecake
The next time you’re in San Diego’s Gaslamp, be sure to visit Osteria Panevino. Tell Annalisa and Vincenzo I sent you.
722 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 921015
*Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner