A stroll through Davanti Enoteca makes it apparent why the establishment is considered to be one of America’s best new restaurants. Creative touches make the décor a delight – from the wall of hand mirrors behind the hostess’ desk to the recurring images of pigs, goats and cows adorning the menus and walls. The bar is set in the middle of the dining room, and while the drink menu rotates, weekend brunches feature a selection of Bloody Mary cocktails. Raised patio seating above the sidewalk is a great way to get some sun, while inside the dining area is a warren of tables and nooks. If you come with a crowd, head out to the patio and slide into one of the draped, large and deeply upholstered booths to work through a menu that’s full of surprises, including a comforting mascarpone polenta and Ligurian-style focaccia de recco.
Acclaimed chef/restaurateur Scott Harris recreated his popular Chicago trattoria in Del Mar, where patrons enjoy rustic family style cooking in a casual friendly atmosphere. Mia Francesca Del Mar’s clean design, with its wooden floors, giant glass windows and antique chandeliers, is enhanced by black-and-white photos by renowned lensman Paul Elledge, who captures the faces and landscapes of the Tuscan countryside. The menu changes often, but is always filled with home-style dishes like bruschetta with asparagus, mussels in spicy tomato sauce, gnocchi with wild mushrooms, or roasted garlic chicken. Chef Woody Benitez helms the Del Mar incarnation describing the food as, “old-school trattoria cuisine like how a mother cooks for her child.” Customers cap the meal with airy and sweet tiramisu.
For the un-initiated, walking into Mimmo’s Italian Village can be a bit disconcerting. Is it a Disneyland or Las Vegas attraction? Not at all; he décor was designed in the 1970’s to mirror the experience of strolling through an Italian Village at twilight. Just inside the front door and past the deli case are a series of faux storefronts. Light posts and archways, with tables set in between, lead around a corner to a Venetian mural and a winding staircase that rises above to offices and storage. The charming atmosphere subtly complements an array of Italian dishes and continental wine list. Arrive for lunch to choose from deli selections, while in the evenings white table cloths cover the tables. The service and meals are impeccably satisfying any time of day.
Chef and restaurateur Scott Harris originally started Davanti Enoteca in Chicago, and his growing chain has now reached great heights in San Diego County. The first Southern California incarnation immediately became a favorite in Little Italy, and its sister restaurant in Del Mar Heights has also won over the local crowd. Davanti in Del Mar feels cozy and charming, thanks to its exposed brick walls, ambient lighting and lively communal tables. The outdoor patio is also popular for leisurely lunches that might involve pizzas, homemade pastas, charcuterie boards and more. To start, try the truffle egg toast with fontina and asparagus, or a roasted pear and goat cheese salad with arugula. It’s a great place for a date night or after-movie bite and libation.
While modest in size, there’s nothing diminutive about the dedication of the owners, chef and staff at Buon Appetito. Every detail, from the fresh entrées and desserts to the gallery art gracing the walls is carefully attended to. A slim set of tables on the sidewalk are perfect for basking in the afternoon light and people watching, while a slender bar inside makes it easy to connect your libation desires with the bartender. Awash in earthy colors with touches of green and golden hued woods, the dining room is laid out with plenty of space between tables - all the better for soft spoken conversations. A glass of wine and the popular ossobuco is all one needs to enjoy Buon Appetito in the bustling Little Italy scene.
Mirroring the abundance of attractions sitting atop the boardwalk, the pizza masters at A Brooklyn Pizzeria pile a New York–style thin crust with pepperoni, meatballs, sausage, and veggies on their Coney Island Deluxe pizza. It's one of the pizzeria's 18 specialty pies, whose fixings range from pineapple and Canadian bacon to ricotta cheese and artichoke hearts, all of which undergo baking in a brick oven. To complement the pies, the menu ties in other Italian favorites such as baked ziti and housemade cannoli, as well as oven-toasted sandwiches and subs.