Acqua Al 2

322 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
$$$ Italian Recommended Editor's Pick Special Offer

While it may be physically impossible to bring a Florentine trattoria to San Diego, Chef and Owner Martin Gonzalez has come remarkably close. Acqua Al 2 is the sister restaurant of the original Acqua Al 2, located on the Via della Vigna Vecchia in Florence. Using the same menu, recipes, and cooking techniques, Acqua Al 2 offers authentic Tuscan-style dining right in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp district. The charming ambiance hints of old world Italy, while the aromatic and flavorful dishes exude authenticity. Anyone considering an escape to Italy should first pay a visit to this local favorite.

A Little Piece of Florence in San Diego

Review by

Acqua Al 2, pronounced ‘ah-qwa-all-doo-eh,’ is not just a traditional Italian restaurant: it is an authentic Italian restaurant. No other Italian restaurant in San Diego can say it has a sister restaurant in Florence, Italy. The original Acqua Al 2, located on Via della Vigna vecchia in the historic theater district Piazza della Signoria in Italy, opened its doors in 1978 and quickly became one of Florence’s most celebrated trattorias. The identical San Diego location was one of the first restaurants to open in San Diego’s Gaslamp District in September of 2000, and has managed to stay true to the Northern Italian cuisine and culture it inherited.

Upon arriving for dinner at Acqua AL 2, located on the Harbor End of 5th Avenue, we noticed the characteristically European ambiance that radiated from every inch of this genuine trattoria. We opted to sit on the street-side patio, but the restaurant does offer diverse seating options. The large bar, which is home to the restaurant’s Thursday night Italian style happy hour, Apertivo, is chic with dark wood and bottles of wine displayed high on shelves. If a romantic Italian dinner is more your style, Acqua Al 2 also has a sectional dining room that provides a more intimate setting. Just like its Italian counterpart, the restaurant walls are adorned with white plates signed by regular guests and celebrities.

Our outdoor table was bright, colorful and precisely situated for people-watching. The outside patio wall was a bright and cheerful yellow, while our table top was decorated with yellow napkins, blue glasses and a lively menu of red, blue and yellow.

The staff of Acqua Al 2 is accommodating to say the least. We were immediately offered sparkling water and some Italian bread, served in a paper bag, which gave off a tantalizing aroma. Each and every colorful table has its own bottle of oil and vinegar to compliment the warm bread and a side plate for easy dipping. As we enjoyed a nibble or two of our bread, I glanced over Acqua Al 2’s extensive wine list. Heavy on red wines, the restaurant offers predominately Italian and California wines but is not without a sprinkling of French, Mexican, Australian, Spanish and Chilean varietals.

We decided to ask our knowledgeable server, Amber, which wines she suggested, and not only did she happily answer our question, but she made several dinner recommendations while she gave us a delightful menu presentation. She suggested that we try the “specialita della casa,” which she assured us, genuinely duplicates a true Northern Italian dinner. And, since she once lived in Florence, we took her word for it. She explained that the restaurant is known, here and in Italy, for its Assaggio menu or tasting menu. For a mere $54, diners are offered the Assaggio di Primi, a tasting of five selections from the restaurants first course menu, Assaggio di Secondi, a sampling of three selections from the second course menu and Assaggio di Dolci, a tasting of four desserts, coffee and a glass of the house red wine. All selections are chef’s choice and can be, and often are, dramatically different from day to day.

Amber informed us that the menu was designed to promote an interactive dining experience, an experience where dishes are shared and conversations abundant, all while enjoying a great glass of wine in an intimate setting. The menus for Acqua Al 2, in Florence and in San Diego, are identical with the exception of a few seafood dishes, which Florence does not have since they are not a coastal community. We gladly accepted Amber’s suggestion, which peaked our curiosity with its mysterious “chef’s choice” dishes, and placed our dining satisfaction into the capable hands of Chef Martin Gonzalez.

We began with a glass of the house red wine, a Sangiovese Cabernet and Merlot blend. This lingering, fragrant wine would prove to be an elegant match to our upcoming feast. A moment later we were presented with the beginning of our meal, the first dish of our Assaggio di Primi: Maccheroni alla Vodka. This delicate pink pasta was served, as each of our first course selections would be, on a small white plate placed gently between my guest and I. We each enjoyed the penne pasta mixed with a creamy milk and vodka sauce that contained just a hint of tomato.

Next, we sampled the enticing Fusilli Cord agli Spinaci, which is corkscrew pasta in a pale green spinach and parmesan cheese sauce. This was a delicate dish with subtle flavors and a creamy texture.

Our third sample was Farfalline alla Zucca, bowtie pasta with Italian zucchini, garlic and a fragrant, fresh rosemary sauce accompanied by a touch of parmesan cheese. The zucchini was hot and juicy while the pink, almost orange sauce had clean, crisp flavors.

As our samples continued arriving, the flavors grew more robust and the sauces more potent. Our next dish, Rigatoni alle Melanzane, quickly became one of my favorites and, as our server informed us has always been Chef Martin’s favorite as well. This tube shaped pasta was appropriately al dente and the rich tomato and eggplant sauce contained pure flavors, while the sizeable pieces of eggplant remained tender.

Our final sample from the Assaggio di Primo was Fusilli Lunghi alia Fiacheraia, long fusilli pasta in a zesty tomato sauce. Our final pasta dish proved to be my dining partner’s favorite as he is always looking for a little zing in his pasta sauce. The sauce effortlessly delivered the zing he desired without being overwhelmingly intense.

Without delay our server brought our Assaggio di Secondi, the sampling of three chef selected entrees. Chef Martin chose to delight us with the Filetto al Aceto Balsamico (filet mignon topped with a balsamic vinegar glaze), Con Trofiletto alia Griglia (a New York steak, grilled and served on a bed of arugula) and Fileno al Mirtilio (a decadent looking filet topped with a blueberry sauce).

I immediately delved into the Fileno al Mirtilio: the unlikely pair of filet mignon and blueberry was so pleasing I found myself forgetting that I was supposed to share. The steak was tender and impeccably cooked; the sweetness of the blueberries was cut by the smoky flavor of the filet. The dish was not nearly as sweet as I had expected: in fact, the two components melded together so well they appeared to be a natural pair.

The next selection was the Con Trofiletto alia Griglia which was drizzled with a light olive oil, garnished with large ripe grape tomatoes, quartered lemon wedges and placed amid a bed of arugula. This New York steak was a superb cut of beef and prepared precisely as I had wished it to be. I added a spritz of the lemon to my steak and arugula and enjoyed a properly bitter tasting salad of sorts.

The Filetto al Aceto Balsamico proved to be another tender and succulent filet, this time generously topped with a sweet, thick and flavorful balsamic glaze. The glaze proved to be the sweetest of the sauces that accompanied our steaks and was so rich and robust that it quite simply drenched the tender cut of beef in flavor.

Our final plate was a generous sampling of Acqua Al 2 desserts, or Assaggio di Dolci. We were presented with Tiramisu, Pannacotta, Cheesecake and Torta di Cioccolatta (Flourless Chocolate Cake). Each was elegantly presented with a drizzling of chocolate whimsically embellishing the crisp white plate and fresh fruit situated in the center of our Assaggio di Dolci. The Tiramisu was creamy and the espresso dipped ladyfingers presented a great accompaniment to the coffee that was part of the Specialiti della Casa menu. The Pannacotta was indulgent and served with a dollop of strawberry coulis. The Flourless Chocolate Cake was dense and incredibly moist with a whisper of powdered sugar and chocolate sauce. Last, but certainly not least, was the cheesecake with blueberry sauce. The walnut crust crumbled right into the ricotta cheesecake, allowing for a gratifying spoonful every time.

While my dining partner and I sat and discussed our dinner, it occurred to us that Acqua Al 2 was a great date restaurant. The specialiti della casa certainly did promote sharing, while the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue offers plenty to discuss if an unexpected lull in conversation should occur. By this time the patio had the heat lamps going and we were comfortable, satisfied and content. It was abundantly clear to us that Acqua Al 2 served up an authentic Italian meal, not simply because of the food, but because the culture and ambiance that make Florence one of the most beautiful places in the world is sincerely transplanted into San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Authenticity can at times be hard to find, but Acqua Al 2 strives to deliver it every night. Buon Appetito!

Copyright ©


Business Info

  • Address: 322 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
  • Cross Street: J Street
  • Location: Downtown | Gaslamp Quarter
  • Cuisine: Italian | Pasta |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual Elegant
  • Meals Served: Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: Street |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover |
  • Corkage Fee: 10.00 | Per 750ml bottle
  • Phone: (619) 230-0382
  • Features: Full Bar, Catering Services, Outdoor Seating, Private Room, Prix Fixe Menu, Smoking Area, Takeout Available, Tasting Menu, Wheelchair Access, Happy Hours, Personal Wines Allowed, Lounge / Bar, Healthy Options,
  • Occasion: Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Meet for a Drink, People Watching, Quiet Conversation, Special Occasion, Dog Friendly,


Acqua Al 2 - Pasta Options
Acqua Al 2 - Table Setting Acqua Al 2 - Inside Seating Acqua Al 2 - Chef Acqua Al 2 - Steak filet Acqua Al 2 - Desserts Acqua Al 2 - Dinner Acqua Al 2 - Fresh Fish Acqua Al 2 - Appetizer Acqua Al 2 - Aqua Al 2 Acqua Al 2 - Interior Seating Acqua Al 2 - Exterior Acqua Al 2 - Exterior Acqua Al 2 - Aqua Al 2 Acqua Al 2 - Guests Acqua Al 2 - Pasta Acqua Al 2 - Entree Acqua Al 2 - Dessert Options

Business Hours

Reservations Available
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.


Frequently Asked Questions
No, valet parking is not offered at Acqua Al 2, but there is a public parking lot across the street from the restaurant.
Acqua Al 2 offers $2 off bar appetizers, $3 draft beer and $5 selected red & white wine (per glass) on all Padres home game days from 5:00pm-7:00pm.
Acqua Al 2 is pronounced as "ah-qwa-all-doo-eh".
Yes, the bar does have happy hour on Monday through Friday, from 5pm until 7pm.
<QuerySet [{'id': 1299, 'name': 'Lunch', 'description': '*Ask about our seafood specials*', 'fixprice': True, 'menuprice': Decimal('0.00'), 'displayorder': 3}, {'id': 36, 'name': 'Dinner Menu', 'description': '', 'fixprice': False, 'menuprice': Decimal('0.00'), 'displayorder': 4}, {'id': 2106, 'name': 'Specialty Menu ', 'description': 'QUESTO MENU’ VUOLE MOSTRARE UNA CENA OD UN PRANZO CLASSICO CHE NORMALMENTE GLI ITALIANI CONSUMANO AL RISTORANTE! <br>\r\nWith this menu we want to offer you the experience of a classic meal Italians would have when going out to dinner!', 'fixprice': True, 'menuprice': Decimal('0.00'), 'displayorder': 5}, {'id': 3991, 'name': 'Date Night Menu', 'description': 'per person 3-course menu and includes two free movie passes. Tax and gratuity are extra.Only available 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. for dine-in guests. ', 'fixprice': True, 'menuprice': Decimal('59.50'), 'displayorder': 6}]>


Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes