Acqua Al 2

$50 - $75 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

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!

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 Deals & Special Offers

Deal:   Enjoy complimentary house selected hors d'oeuvres every Thursday between 6-8PM

Valid: Sept. 11, 2014 - Dec. 31, 2016

Days Available: Thursday,

Time Available: 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Rules: Served at the bar area only. Offer may not be combined with other promotions or special offers. Offer not applicable towards group reservations. Gratuity should be calculated on the full amount before discount.

Deal:   Enjoy $3 beers, $5 wines and large selection of appetizer specials Monday - Friday between 5-7PM

Valid: Sept. 11, 2014 - Dec. 31, 2016

Days Available: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,

Time Available: 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Rules: Served at the bar area only. Offer may not be combined with other promotions or special offers. Offer not applicable towards group reservations. Gratuity should be calculated on the full amount before discount.

Deal:   Savor a meal from the special Date Night menu, and you and your date will receive free movie passes. Enjoy!

Valid: Jan. 2, 2013 - Dec. 31, 2016

Days Available: Daily

Time Available: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Rules: Offer may not be combined with other promotions or special offers. Offer not applicable towards group reservations. Gratuity should be calculated on the full amount before discount.


  Restaurant Info

  • 322 5th Avenue
    San Diego CA 92101
  • Address: 322 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
  • Cross Street: J Street
  • Location: Downtown | Gaslamp Quarter
  • Cuisine: Italian | Pasta |
  • Cost: $$$ | Moderate | $50 - $75
  • 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
  • Staff: Martin Gonzalez | Owner
  • Phone: (619) 230-0382

  Business Hours

Monday
Main Dining Room | Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Tuesday
Main Dining Room | Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Wednesday
Main Dining Room | Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Thursday
Main Dining Room | Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Friday
Main Dining Room | Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Saturday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Sunday
Main Dining Room | Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Features

Occasion

 


  F.A.Q. - 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.

 Menus

Lunch

PANINI Italian Sandwiches

Freddi Antipasti

Caldi Antipasti

Insalate/Zuppa

Primi

Secondi

Contorni

Dinner Menu

Antipasti / Appetizers

Freddi/Cold

Caldi/Hot

Insalate / Salads & Zuppa / Soups

Riso/Rice

Pasta

Secondi/ Main Entrée

Contorni/Sides

Specialty Menu

MENU’ CON BICCHIERE DI VINO

MENU’ SENZA VINO

Date Night Menu

First Course

Second Course

Third Course


 User Reviews

Loved it.  

Blueberry Filet was excellent.

Wedding Anniversary Dinner  

My wife and I had a great evening at the Acqua! The service and quality of food was supreme. Our waiter did a fabulous job with his recommendations based on our needs. Would strongly recommend this restaurant for any evening!

Outstanding Value and Service  

I read the reviews for the restaurant and was very pleased that they were accurate. The service was outstanding. Our waiter thought of everything for our party of 10. He went out of his way to help make the evening enjoyable for all. The food was excellent. We will definitely return when visiting the downtown area.

Great place to have a relaxing meal  

Best Italian Food I've had in a long time.

Couldn't have been better!  

Fantastic food, incredible staff, perfect evening. We will return and hope to visit in Italy!

Our first visit  

What a find. We had an exceptional meal. Friendly and helpful service add to a wonderful dining experience. Many unusual items to pick from. We'll be back. Art and Marcia Wible

Acqua Al 2  

Excellent service!

Real Italian food  

We were surprised by the authentic Italian food. Most Italian restaurants in SoCal are either serving old style Italian dishes such as lasagna and spaghetti with meatballs or have some kind of American versions of Italian food. At Acqua Al 2, you can tell the menu is identical with the Florence location and the food was great. Service was friendly and efficient. The live music on Wednesday night was a nice surprise. We will be back for sure.

Loved the food  

Great location. We sat outide on the patio and loved the people watching. Great food! Waiters were very nice and attentive. Restaurant clean and very nice.

Love this restaurant....  

The reservation was made on a whim through the internet and we were bringing clients for dinner. Having never been to San Diego, never eaten here before, and not really knowing what to expect, the experience was exceptional. The food, the presentation, the service, the wine...... it was all great. Will go back again on my next visit.

Enjoyable  

Great little resturant. Food was excellent and the setting relaxing.

Fine place  

Our waiter Aleis was knowledgeable and patient, had answers for all our questions. And the food itself was exquisite. Also if you're a beer lover like me ask for the italian beer its a pretty good choice.

cozy!!!  

personalized service!!! the food was great as well as the wine. the place is very cozy!!!

Dining at the Acqua  

In making my reservation for 6 on the internet I was asked for a credit card. As I wasn't sure if my out of town friends would arrive in time for the 8:30 reservation I didn't continue the process. My friends did arrive at my condo about 8 PM and 25 minutes later Acqua called to say they were holding a table for 6 if I would like to dine there. I figured they must be hurting for business but when we got there the place was jammed (Saturday Night). The food,service and ambiance was excellant. As my condo (The Mark) is only a block away we will be dining at the Acqua often

Best Italian in SD!!  

Acqua Al 2 is most likely my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. After living in Florence last summer, this is the closest thing I have found to authentic Italian food in San Diego. We went on a Friday night and it was packed, so I would recommend reservations. Despite being busy, the service was excellent. We ordered the pasta sampler or “assagio,” which was 5 plates from their 1st course menu that the chef chooses for you. We also ordered the blueberry sauce filet and the balsamic filet, which are two of the restaurant’s specialties and both were to die for! Especially the blueberry steak. We sat out on the patio, which we’d recommend asking for ahead of time if you want more of an Italian feel and like to people watch. Overall, I was very impressed with everything that I ordered and would recommend Acqua Al 2 to anyone that is craving real Italian cuisine.

There's no pleasing some people  

I almost cancelled my reservation based on the review below (Worst Italian ever). Then I decided that someone was either having a bad day or was just an uninformed diner, and after dinner last night, have concluded it must have been both. My husband and I toured Italy last year and ate at some of the best restaurants we've ever had the pleasure to experience. My comment last night was, "Why fly all the way to Florence when you can get the same quality right here in the U.S.?" I reserved online from my home in Boston and had a confirmation (with a request for the patio) in five minutes. After arriving in CA, I called to move the reservation by 1.5 hours and add two people. Much to my surprize, we were all seated on the patio! The service was quick and attentive and the food was wonderful. The five-course pasta tasting menu is not to be missed, nor is the filet - either with blueberry sauce or reduced balsamic. I wish I lived closer so that I could return often. Even Boston's famed north end has no restaurants to hold a candle to this.

Authentic Italian  

We've been dining at Trattoria La Strada for a long time...always comparing other Italian restaurants who could not match up. Acqua Al 2 comes pretty close to replacing our Italian dining ritual! It started out with exceptional service. Unique to this restaurant is their pasta tasting menu- we shared 5 pasta dishes as an appetizer. What an extraordinary idea! My main meal was the steak, which was presented beautifully with shaved parmesan on top of a breaded base. My boyfriend had the canneloni- which was spectacular. We ended the night off with the dessert to share (5 different items). This dining experience was exciting! We will be back.

Great authentic Italian Food  

I recently spent over a month in Italy, and the food at Aqua al 2 is the best authentic Italian I have eaten in San Diego, replicating the fine dining I found in Italian culture. The service I received was excellent as well. All in all, it was quite an "Old World" experience worth repeating.

Best italian  

It has a huge menu with things for everyone. We had dinner with seafood cooked with farfalline in a white sauece with white wine reduction and a risotto with porcini mushroom. The seafood was well controlled with their delicate texture/flavor perfectly maintained. The seafood and the pasta was gently coated with the lgiht, silky white sauce. It was rich, not greasy or too saucy. The risotoo was also very good and with the right consistency, except that the rice was a bit overcooked and mushy. We went back for lunch the other day for veal chops with a cremy sauce and capers and a farafalline with porcini mushrooms. Which were also very good. We have also tried Trattoria La Strada, Acqua Al 2 is waaaaaaay better for its italian cusine and service. we will be back!

BEST PASTA  

IF YOU WANT PASTA AND LIKE TO ENJOY WITH DIFFERENT SAUCES AND FLAVORS GO FOR THE PASTA SAMPLER!!! THE BEST PASTA IN THE WORLD

Perfect  

The perfect meal. Suprising authentic, great service adn great value. The tutte mare was fantastic. Interesting blends of Steak and Blueberry Sauces.

Fun Place!!  

Food is great, fillet portions small and pasta HUGE.Service is wonderful, Ricky and Rosanna must be mentioned since they're great fun.

Great Service!!  

Food was wonderful, service was excellent, Rosana the manager delightful and knowledgeable, very warm atmosphere, fillet with balsamic vinegar sauce just became my favorite dish! and Acqua al 2 my favorite restaurant!

Food  

Great

Acqua Al 2 restaurant  

A pleasant restaurant. Not too noisy. Good service. Will return if in San Diego again

great food, drinks, and ambiance  

i had a great time at Acqua Al 2 - the food was great; perfect flavoring and cook times. drinks are STRONG :) nice waiter, ambiance is cozy yet fun and sophisticated.

Superb Service  

Allan, our waiter, took impeccably care of us. We thoroughly enjoyed our meals, all four of us having different entrées, but the star was the filet mignon!

Pre-Valentines' Dinner  

Great food/service/selection Pricey (based on our choices) Ambiance may be better on busier nights

Limoncello and Special Service  

Thanks to Amy and the staff at Acqua Al 2 for providing special service during my recent visit to San Diego! I was on my own for dinner one evening and happened upon Acqua Al 2. Amy took the time to explain the menu offerings and the origins of the restaurant, inviting me to stop back. Well, I returned, and was happy I did. A bag of toasted bread preceded by a fabulous oven-roasted aroma arrived at my table just after I was seated! I ordered a glass of red wine, and the waiter helped me choose a salad and one of the gnocchi selections. The staff's attention was always just right - and Amy stopped back to check on me and thoughtfully recommended a vodka and limoncello for my sore throat, and not sure if it was the vodka or the lemon and sugar, but all was better after the drink! The food was simple and authentic - a lovely experience, overall.

Dinner at Acqua Al 2  

Dinner started with fresh bread in a sack and very tasty ice tea. We had the pasta sampler and 4 of the 5 were pipping hot and very good. I had the peppercorn new york steak and my partner had the fillet with blueberry sauce. Her's was excellent, while mine was over cooked and tough. We had the sampler dessert platter which was very good. I would recommend this restaurant for very special occassions. The cost was a little on the pricey.

Quiet Dinner  

Loved this place, met up with a friend from Italy here and we loved it, quiet setting for an evening of chatting. pasta was great :)

Great  

I had a great time. Wonderful food and service.

Good Food, Good Service  

The waitress was very pleasant. The food and service were good. I would go there again.

servers not that interested  

WE SAW OUR SERVER MAYBE THREE TIMES AND GOT OUR DRINKS REFILLED TWILCE IN 2 HOURS, SERVICE WAS NOT GREAT AT ALL

Beware - no discloscure they charge for tea refill  

Food was ok. Very small portions but tasty. Definitely not a value restaurant. Everything ala carte. Service was satisfactory since you had to ask for every little thing. I was stunned when I got the bill and there was $3 for every refill of iced tea and no one disclosed refills were full price. Almost $20 for iced tea for 2 people (and they used the same glass each refill). When I brought it up management, they snubbed their noses and said it is policy deal with it basically.

Don't let the location in Firenze fool you  

I have now spent nearly a week in Gaslamp and decided to make my final meal to come from this so-called Italian place. I am not one to nit pick on service like some of your friends always do but this place was way sub-par. When the bus boy is much more courteous than you waiter-something is wrong. The food is nothing to rave about. Having spent sometime in Italy, I definately did not feel taken back to another place. The place is tourist trap. We ordered the pasta sampler, only received 4 of the five samples, and only given the fifth after received with the check after we let the waiter know we were cheated. The pasta tasted like artisinal hamburger helper minus the hamburger.....just with cheese sauce and yes, dried bits of porcini mushrooms.

Worst Italian Meal Ever  

From the moment you sit down at this tacky tourist trap and take a look at their sticky menus you know you're in for a crappy meal. Then for a treat the bus boy brings over a brown sack of stale bread. Mmmm, gross. So you try to order something edible. What's that? Every other entree is loaded with porcini mushrooms? There's no chicken parm or pasta with anything remotely appealing? So you settle and try to substitute your way through it. So the chicken you special order for your pasta has been George Forman-ed and it's all black and charred and ruins the taste of your Chef Boyardee pasta. I swear, the pasta and gnocchi had the consistency of an overcooked college hot pot meal. Then you get the damn bill and they end up charging you $6 for that added chicken. And lo and behold all those diet coke refills cost you $3 a pop. Mother F Olive Garden has better Italian food. Ragu makes better sauce. Save your money and microwave a dogsh*t, it will taste better.