Ranch & Coast Magazine

May 2023

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Page 43 of 91

Located at the corner of Goldfinch and Fort Stockton in Mission Hills, this Italian-infused spin on a steakhouse from the prolific Trust Restaurant Group is anything but traditional. Red bricks, subway tiles, and flowered wallpaper take the place of wood paneling, and a bar draped in philodendrons is a bright, verdant centerpiece rather than some gloomy hideout. And like its patrons, Cardellino's staff are far more relaxed and dressed in a more casual manner than a typical steakhouse's buttoned-up brigade. Cardellino's menu is right in line with its motif, offering a laid-back take on steakhouse fare driven home by incorporation of expertly made down-home Northern Italian pastas and sides, all of which are served as accompaniments to steaks, ranging from an 8-ounce filet mignon, 12-ounce New York strip, and 14-ounce ribeye, to the show-stopping Bistecca Florentina, a 38-ounce porterhouse for two carved on the bone and presented on a mahogany platter. e flames of Cardellino's stone hearth lend definitive char to every cooked protein, including whole-roasted branzino with capers, lemon, and bagna cauda, and a bone-in veal chop parmigiana. e latter is tender, impressively moist, and given lovely kicks of salt from golden-browned dollops of fresh mozzarella. A note of smolder also accentuates a house-made sausage appetizer featuring what just may be the best polenta in San Diego. Rich, creamy, and downright soul-pleasing, perhaps no single item on Cardellino's menu is as emblematic of the eatery itself. It's every- person food blending Italian (polenta) and American (a cheesy grits preparation) to present lick-the-plate-clean comfort food in an inviting environment. Cardellino's pastas and contorni also bring on the warm and fuzzies. From classics like Spicy Rigatoni enlivened by Calabrian chili and a velvety vodka sauce to Sunday Supper Spaghetti in savory short rib ragu cut with crème fraîche, and agnolotti stuffed with a sweet, almost fruity beet puree served sheathed in pecorino with brown butter and toasted hazelnuts (you can find shades of PB&J if you try hard enough), texture and technique carry the day. And when it comes to Cardellino's side hustle, dishes are downright homey. Granted, it's a home with a skilled chef and restaurateur — Trust Restaurant Group owner Brad Wise — but still. Whipped ricotta adds creaminess to the zesty tomato sauce that dresses toothsome orecchiette, Escondido-sourced Tuscan beans are lent piney vibrancy care of fresh rosemary, and cacio e pepe may never taste the same without the addition of uniquely earthy Burgundy black truffle. << Indulge dining ranchandcoast.com 44 MAY 2023 RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE

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