At a young age, Alberto Morreale decided on a career as a chef, leaving his Sicilian hometown to cook in restaurants across northern Italy. After moving to San Diego, he started synthesizing Californian influences with his Old World culinary techniques, creating dishes such as his housemade lobster ravioli with chipotle-mascarpone-cilantro sauce and a dollop of tequila.
Chef Morreale’s use of local ingredients in his creative recipes adds to the freshness of dishes at both Fig Tree Cafe locations—winning the Hillcrest café second place in CityVoter’s Best Brunch category in 2010. The two cafés bake their breads in house, grow their own sprigs of rosemary, and catch their own silverware in a clear mountain stream. The kitchen sources ingredients from area producers, such as a ranch 35 miles outside of town, which supplies the restaurant with natural, free-range eggs.
Giovannis Italian Restaurant boasts strong San Diego roots that were put down back in 1980—the year when the eatery first opened. However, the menu has much older ties to the past. The chefs still use generations-old family recipes that draw inspiration from classic Italian as well as Italian-American cooking. In addition to the selection of hearty pasta dishes, veal entrees, and sub sandwiches, the restaurant also prepares pizzas with as many as 28 different toppings from the Periodic Table of Elements, including everything from meatballs and chopped garlic to artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. To accompany this cozy, homestyle cooking, Giovannis also features an ever-changing assortment of beers from local craft breweries, such as Ballast Point, Stone, Green Flash, Karl Strauss, and Coronado.
Winner of San Diego Living’s Pasta Wars, Pastalini enables marinara guzzlers to choose from a variety of tempting ingredients and forge phenomenal pasta, pizza, or salad recipes specially tailored to individual tastes. Noodle buffs can sculpt a specialized pasta bowl ($6.39) by fusing flavors such as rigatoni, pesto, and grilled chicken topped with spinach and black olives or prep alfredo-doused grilled shrimp and english peas for seafood prom with a helping of elegant bowtie pasta.
Pizza Gourmet Express sits proudly as a pizza psychoanalyst with its open-kitchen format and the freedom to express your deepest pizza desires when building your own. The shop's menu invites customers to choose their crust style, sauce, and any topping from an amalgam of feta cheese, gorgonzola, artichoke hearts, garlic mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh pineapple, caramelized pear, figs, roasted asparagus, roasted eggplant, pulled pork, duck confit, and more.
A proper Pizzicato pizza rests on a foundation of authentic crust oiled in olivy and garlicky synchronicity and fused with whole-milk mozzoparm and fresh herbs. Concoctions range from classic New Yawk Cheese ($11.25 for 12 inches) to the contemporary fusion of a Thai Pizza composed of teriyaki chicken, green onions, sweet peppers, mozzarella, carrots, and crushed chili peppers showered in a spicy peanut sauce ($22.25 for 16 inches). Carryout customers can choose between a fresh, ready-to-eat pizza or a fresh, ready-to-cook-at-home, partially baked pizza. A 12-inch creation serves a party of two to three and a 16-inch serves a party of four to five, whereas parties of exactly five may be subject to auditions for an obsolete TV drama series. Geometrically undefined items served on suspiciously circular dinnerware include refreshing salads such as arugula and ripe pear tossed with sweetened walnuts and gorgonzola in a balsamic vinaigrette ($5.25 for small, serves one to two) and the superhuman simplicity of a Tuscan Meatball Hero Panini layered in meatballs, marinara, and mozzarella ($7.00). Check out the full menu for San Diego here and Encinitas here.