Ranch & Coast Magazine

June 2023

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Piatti opened in 1987 and almost immediately won over local diners with their pasta, which is made fresh daily, and pizza from their stone-hearth oven. Some folks like to dine inside where they can watch the process in the open kitchen, but the leafy patio is also very popular. I'm a big fan of the ravioli filled with spinach, basil, and ricotta and served with a lemon cream sauce, but I have friends who wait all year for the butternut squash ravioli that is only offered seasonally. Recently, San Diego's Spaces as Places program closed part of Avenida de La Playa and provided more outdoor seating for Piatti and other nearby restaurants. Without traffic, this long block has become the heart of the neighborhood, where kids roller blade and neighbors stop to talk. Piatti was the first Italian, but not the last. lajolla.piatti.com In 1999, Barbara Beltaire opened Barbarella on the other side of Avenida de la Playa. e host's free spirit was soon made apparent when she installed large, colorful balloon decorations from her roof to celebrate holidays. While Piatti describes its vibe as "casual elegant," Barbarella has always been "fun." In 2018, Beltaire sold the eatery to artist Jean Hamerslag and her family, but most things remain unchanged. e seasonal decorations are still there, but tamer, and fettuccine Bolognese and Margherita pizza are two of the most popular menu items. e mosaic tile around the pizza oven is the work of artist Niki de Saint Phalle, a friend of Beltaire. barbarellarestaurant.com If authentic ambience is what matters, head to the third Italian restaurant to take a place on Avenida de la Playa. Osteria Romantica was opened by Fabio Speziali and Antonio Mastellone in 2004, and Speziali, who grew up in the Lake Como region of Northern Italy, likes to personally welcome guests. My grandparents immigrated from Italy, so I'm accustomed to meals accompanied by Pavarotti and animated conversation, but the patio provides a quieter option for those who want it. e menu offers tradition Italian dishes, which are served in generous portions. e lasagna is my favorite. osteriaromantica.com Special Occasion Dining ANDREA NAVERSEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE To me, special occasion or "fine dining" isn't about pristine white tablecloths, white-gloved servers, and maître d's in starched white shirts. is isn't Downton Abbey, after all. Fine dining, to me, is about wonderful food — all kinds of food — ambience, and attentive rather than solicitous service. Not the "I'm Steven and I'll be your server tonight," but something more personal and genuine, welcoming rather than stiff or stuffy. Real. During the pandemic, my husband, extended family, and friends appreciated picnics on the beach, alfresco lunches, and casual dinners. But now I'm eager to get out and sample all that San Diego has offer on the culinary scene. << Indulge dining ranchandcoast.com 58 JUNE 2023 RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE

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