Chianti

It’s often hard to choose a restaurant on 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp. There are many enticing hostesses with even more enticing menus on display out front, but with so many options, it can still be a difficult choice to make.  Luckily, there’s one restaurant on 5th that emits a radiant glow of friendly service, quality food, and reasonable prices. Chianti has been a 5th Avenue mainstay for nearly a decade for many reasons, including the knowledgeable staff and fresh, delicious, authentic Italian food. The décor is elegant and relaxing, with paintings of the Italian countryside adorning the walls and elegant chandeliers gracing the ceilings. Stop by soon to see what the glow is about!

Chianti: The Glow on 5th

In the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue Downtown, there are many restaurants to choose from with similar looking exteriors and similarly beautiful hostesses standing out front.  However, there is one Italian eatery that sticks out from the rest, because - for one reason or another - it glows.  That restaurant is Chianti, located near the corner of 5th and G Street and nestled between Greystone the Steakhouse and the Ocean Room.  It’s a short walk from the trolley station and Horton Plaza, and a slightly longer walk from the convention center, Grand Manchester Hyatt, and Hilton.

I’m greeted at the entrance by the lovely Karina, and given the option to sit inside or out.  The outside is already sufficiently occupied by families and couples, so I heed the call of the intimate dining room.  Upon first entering, I discover the first cause of Chianti’s glow:  The interior is painted a soft antique gold with many chandeliers that combine to throw a diffused radiance throughout the restaurant, and even a ways out the door.  The interior is also characterized by many oil paintings depicting picturesque Italian landscapes and wrought iron designs hanging on the walls.  The most beautiful decoration – in my opinion - is the traditional (and functional) brick oven with a copper hood that is located near the bar.  The bar itself is quite magnificent and generously proportioned, boasting a large variety of liquor and wine set against a mirrored back.

Karina sits my guest and me towards the front of the restaurant where we can enjoy the remaining sunlight.  The table setting is standard, save for a petite vase with small wildflowers that stands out beautifully against the grandiose décor of the restaurant.  At 5:30pm, the restaurant is scantly occupied by casually dressed couples, families, and business people just getting off of work, but my instincts tell me that the restaurant will slowly fill as the evening presses on.  As I browse the menu I notice a plethora of seafood, meat, pasta, vegetarian, and veal dishes alongside daily specials, and am suddenly overwhelmed with selection.  Although presented with a basket of fresh, warm breads, I am advised by the General Manager, Abdu, against filling up on bread as I have quite the culinary adventure ahead of me.

There is a small doorway concealed by a curtain that leads from the kitchen to dining room.  As modern Italian vocals play over speakers and the waiter emerges from the kitchen with a plate of Fritto Misto, I realize that this slender opening would be the entryway to deliciousness for the rest of the night.  The Fritto Misto consists of lightly breaded and seasoned shrimp, scallops, and calamari served alongside lemon wedges and marinara.  Each type of seafood has its own unique breading:  The calamari has a medium density, crunchy breading; the shrimp has a light, crispy breading; and the scallops have a coarser bread-crumb breading with visible herb seasoning.  The calamari is very tender and the coating has just the right consistency:  not at all limp and not a challenge to bite through either.  The calamari coating has slightly less flavor than the other coatings, but this allows for the marinara to interact nicely with the calamari.  The shrimp’s coating is extremely thin and lends a mild crisp before reaching the tender yet plump meat inside.  The scallops are most likely the most tender I’ve ever had, with the taste and consistency of butter.  The coating on the outside gives the scallop a wonderful herby taste that complements the mollusk’s naturally salty flavor.  The marinara is wonderful as well, not being too thick and letting the fresh tomatoes shine over the herbs.  It’s a delicious dish, and I would definitely recommend it with a glass of white wine and conversation.

The next delicacy to appear from behind the curtain is a serving of Focaccia, baked in the brick oven using handmade pizza dough and topped with arugula, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, and truffle oil.  Pizza is only featured on the lunch menu and makes a great mid-day addition to a salad, so it was a privilege to sample this bread in the evening.  The Focaccia is baked crispy and round like a pizza, and one can notice the flour dusting on the bottom, denoting oven baking.  From first bite to last, there is not one ingredient that doesn’t work well with another.  The bread alone is bursting with natural flavor; a rare characteristic of bread.  Prosciutto and basil is a great combination that creates a salty herb taste that complements the flavor of the bread.  While it has become common to throw truffle oil or shavings in just about anything, here the oil is expertly used and is what really brings this dish together.  It does exactly what truffle oil is supposed to do in small amounts, which is enhance the natural flavors of everything it touches.  The result is Focaccia bread unlike any I’ve ever tasted, and better than most pizzas I’ve tasted.  This item is a daily special, so don’t expect to find it every day, or for very long!

Just as I consider another slice of Focaccia, a plate of Capellini ai tre Crostacei arrives.  This is a pasta dish with Dungeness crab meat, shrimp, and fresh Maine lobster that’s sautéed in the tomato and red wine reduction sauce and served over capellini pasta.  The presentation is amazing: not only with the red sauce against the background of a square white plate, but also the way the pasta forms a small mountain with the seafood resting on the summit.  The sauce is light and allows the natural tastes of the seafood to shine through.  In the same way the tomato and wine of the sauce complements the seafood, the seafood provides a nice, salty taste to the sauce.  The seafood is deftly and quickly cooked and creates a soft texture similar to the tenderness of the pasta.  Combining the bits of seafood, sauce, and noodles creates a harmony of simple elegance that pleases the palate without overpowering it.  I find that my 2008 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir goes well with the dish, but would also recommend a slightly lighter red wine.

Alongside the Capellini ai tre Crostacei comes a special treat:  A sampling of Chef Enzo’s house-made Gnocchi.  On the menu it’s known as Gnocchi di Patate Gratinate and is simply stuffed with cheese, but I have the pleasure of experiencing the gnocchi with mozzarella and Portobello mushrooms; a simple addition that makes a world of difference.  To start, the potato “dough” is handmade by Chef Enzo daily, and retains a soft, supple texture while remaining thick, as fresh potato gnocchi should be.  There is no struggle involved as I cut into the perfect circle that is topped with marinara and a touch of Parmesan.  The sauce floods the exposed Gnocchi interior and mingles with the fresh mushrooms and mozzarella.  My taste buds – expecting the simple flavor of cheese and potato – are stimulated by the addition of mushrooms, which provide a slightly salty, rich flavor that is instantly noticeable.  The modest tang from the marinara combines with the robust yet delicate flavor of the mushrooms to create a balanced salty taste that complements the cheese and potato.  The time and effort spent preparing this dish is evident and appreciated, making it one of the many treasures on Chianti’s menu.

With marinara still on my lips, Abdu passes by and mentions the next dish name, but I’m so enthralled I don’t quite hear him.  I don’t realize what’s in store for me until I see it:  A plump Filet Mignon smothered in mushrooms and sauce, simply dubbed Portobello Filet Mignon.  Chianti could call the dish anything they want; one look at the dish and your taste buds know what’s in store.  The Filet is served alongside a fresh and steaming vegetable medley and mashed potatoes.  In order to build the anticipation, I first sample the vegetables:  Steamed until tender but still retaining a slight crisp, the mix of green beans, zucchini, and peppers is cooked in olive oil and a combination of secret spices, making the addition of salt and pepper unnecessary.  The mashed potatoes also surprise me with a peppery kick that I was not expecting.  The potatoes appear plain and uniform, but with one bite they dissolve on my tongue and leave a delicious, buttery, peppery taste that is unlike any other mashed potato.  For years I’ve retained the belief that there is no such thing as too much pepper (except for eating raw pepper), and while it is not overwhelming, the spicy flavor still surprises me.  Now, with the anticipation adequately built, I gently slide my fork and steak knife into the slightly textured, browned exterior.  The Filet is so tender that a butter knife would work just as well as it glides through to a yielding pink interior, soaked with natural juice.  Coated in creamy sauce, the first bite goes down easy, with minimal chewing required; this tender morsel is made so that the focus is on the pleasure of tasting, not the act of eating.  The mushrooms are just as tender as the steak itself, and the sauce provides a subtle zest that excites the natural taste of the meat rather than overwhelming it.  However, that doesn’t stop me from sopping up every last drop, leaving me satisfied and full.

Though full of red meat, my eyes light up when Abdu mentions dessert.  At a fine Italian restaurant like this, I can expect to be served one thing and one thing only:  My favorite dessert, Tiramisu.  Glancing at the curtained flavor portal that leads to the kitchen, I look in amazement as a gargantuan tray of dessert samples emerges; the tray is so large and the doorway so narrow that they have to carry it through lengthwise just so it will fit.  On the tray sits delicious delights including sorbets, gelatos, crème brulées, cannolis, and zabagliones.  Then I see it:  one of the tastiest looking Tiramisus I’ve ever seen, thick and spongy and dusted with cocoa.  I claim it as my own and am as pleased as punch, until my guest selects her dessert: Yogurt Tiramisu. It is explained that it is made without alcohol or heavy syrups and sits as the pure white, virginal version of my own dark tiramisu. Just like that, I’m hit with buyer’s remorse. Luckily – like ying and yang, chocolate and vanilla, ebony and ivory – my guest and I were able to sample each treat side-by-side. Since my feelings on traditional tiramisu should be evident by now, I’ll comment on the Yogurt Tiramisu…It was delicious! While no extra sugar or syrup is added, the yogurt provides enough sweetness for the entire dish; its creamy texture combining with spongy cake to create a smooth, rich dessert that’s unique to Chianti. The dessert is also nicely accompanied by fresh berries that add a sweet little tang to the otherwise uniform taste of the yogurt.

With the meal over, I find myself doubly satisfied: I’ve had an incredibly fine meal and my assumptions about the restaurant filling up have been correct. I maneuver through the dining room, weaving through tables and avoiding other preoccupied guests. As I prepare to leave this bright place and plunge back into the sidewalk traffic of 5th Avenue, I thank Abdu and comment on how crowded the place is getting. To this, he responds: “We’re just getting started.”

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 Photos


 Deals & Special Offers

Deal:   Enjoy Happy Hour Specials Monday-Friday: 4:00pm-7:00pm. Happy Hour Specials are offered at the Bar only.

Valid: May 15, 2013 - Dec. 31, 2016

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

Time Available: 4 p.m. - 7 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

  • 644 5th Avenue
    San Diego CA 92101
  • Address: 644 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
  • Cross Street: Market Street
  • Location: Downtown | Gaslamp Quarter
  • Cuisine: Italian | Pasta | Pizza |
  • Cost: $$$ | Moderate | $50 - $75
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual
  • Meals Served: Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: Street |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | Mastercard | Discover |
  • Corkage Fee: 20.00 | Per 750ml bottle.
  • Staff: Kelly Daley | Marketing Director
    George Georges | Owner
    Enzo Mauri | Executive Chef
  • Phone: (619) 235-8144

  Business Hours

Monday
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Main Dining Room | All Day 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Tuesday
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Main Dining Room | All Day 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Wednesday
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Main Dining Room | All Day 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Thursday
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Main Dining Room | All Day 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Friday
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Main Dining Room | All Day 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Saturday
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Main Dining Room | All Day 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Sunday
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Main Dining Room | Happy Hours 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Main Dining Room | All Day 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.

Features

Occasion

 


  F.A.Q. - Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Chianti does offer patio seating.
Chianti serves Italian food.

 Menus

Lunch Menu

Boards

Anti Pasti & Salads- Cold

Anti Pasti & Salads- Hot

Pasta

Meat

Fish

Panini & Ciabatta

Brick Oven Pizze

Happy Hour

Drinks

Appetizers

Dinner Menu

Boards

Appetizers

Soups

Salads

Pasta and Risotto

Meat

Fish and Seafood

Children's Menu

For Kids Ages 12 and Under


 User Reviews

Perfect!  

Great service, great food, Perfect!

Great Italian place  

Had the swordfish special- PHENOMENAL! Service was great and everyone enjoyed their meal. Really great place to take clients!

Worth it!  

Food & service were outstanding. Best Italian food outside of Firenze !

Very Pleased  

Excellent food, atmosphere, service etc. Very pleased we selected this restaurant on our short visit to the San Diego area.

Gaslamp Winner  

Best experience on our recent trip to San Diego. Warm reception at the bar and great food. Still thinking about that cheese, eggplant starter - a real winner. Our best meal during our visit.

Fifth visit!  

I love the food, sauces and wine! I enjoy sitting on your patio however the inside is just beautiful, too! The staff has always been professional. I have eaten here five times, every time I am in town and have never had anything but fabulous food and service! Keep up your good work!

Chianti Restaurant-- Gas Lamp District - San Diego  

Good Italian. Service was excellent as was the ambience. It was good to get something other than California wine. Outdoor seating is a good addition on nice warm nights. Would recommend to others and will go again.

Excellent service. Delightful experience.  

NIce menu. I would definitely go back again.

outstanding experience!  

The food was great and had a very large selection of appetizers, entres, and deserts. The service was spectacular. Loved the aambiance of the dining hall. This was our first time and we will definitely return in the near future.

cub fan  

nice place went after cubs v padres game would return maybe next year the motto for both teams

Simply the best  

Wonderful atmosphere, accompanied by a very friendly wait staff, and topped with food that is simply to die for. You can't ask for a more wonderful experience than Chianti.

What a wonderful experience...  

We were visiting San Diego for a little break... We were told to go to Croces as it was supposed to be the bomb...Too stark and crowded. We walked down the road a bit and stumbled up a true GEM. Chianti! Pretty romantic decor and the most amazing smells right at the door. We had excellent service,, delicious food and reasonably priced wines. We will most certainly refer friends and anyone that wants an amazing meal and wonderful service and ambiance.

Rehearsal dinner  

My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner here and the food and service were wonderful. All of our guests were impressed with both the food and the wine and they accomodated all 30 of us in a private room to keep the evening intimate.

Delicious Italian  

Mare and Monti has delectable Italian food and a great mood. The experience begins with wonderful service--my waiter was very attentive, and had many recommendations. The bread was perfect--soft and warm and very flavorful. I hade the Spaghettini Alla Bolognese as my main coarse, and oh, was it good! The meat sauce was wonderful, and the portion size was just right. The ambiance of the dining room isn't fantastic, but I highly recommend Mare and Monti if you love warm, hearty, Italian food with a touch of class.

Couldn't be more pleased!  

Our company was attending a conference in San Diego and needed to arrange a group dinner on very short notice. Emily at SanDiegoRestaurants.com found us a perfect match in Mare & Monti. They were very easy to work with, and I was given rave reviews on the food, service at atmosphere from our attendees. We would definitely return!

Excellent all around  

Dining atmosphere was wonderful, the food was absolutely excellent, and the service was definitely a 5 star. If you love Italian food, recommended for a enjoyable dining experience.

Truly wonderful experience  

I dined at Trattoria Mare & Monti back on January 31st, 2003. I had an incredible experience. I had the Fettuccine al Aragosta special and it was the best Italian meal I have had since I spent a month in Italy. Your wine list was truly impressive with not only some wonderful Italian wines, (I had a Fontanafredda Barbaresco and a "Il Grigio" Chianti Classico) but several Oregon and Washington wines as well. My fiancée is a wine distributor for a small company here in the Carolinas and represents several of the better wineries in Oregon and Washington. It was refreshing to see a list with several great American wines from outside California. She also represents Joseph Drouhin, Boscanii (which I see on you list), as well as many others from around the world. I had a truly incredible time that would only have been better had I shared it with my love. I would complete understand if it is not, but is there any way you can send the recipe for the Fettuccine al Aragosta? I like in Winston Salem, NC and would love to have my fiancée make it for me or try to make it for her. I don't think I have the skill level but I think she might. Either way I had a truly wonderful meal that I wish I would have had someone to share it with. Thank you for a truly wonderful experience.

awesome!  

One of the best in the gaslamp. Not too stuffy, not too ostentacious, but very authentic and gourmet. I loved the veal, awesome! Would recommend and would go there again, for sure.

What a wonderful treat for me and my husband!  

We were walking by and decided to come back for dinner on 11/10. It was wonderful! The next day, we were going to Anthony's but we kept talking about how good your food was, so we came back for lunch! When we return to San Diego, we will definitely come back. I had the Sogliola and my husband had Tagliolini Verdi. Just delicious! Mr. & Mrs. K. & S. Hoffmann

As good as homemade  

My wife and I took the kids to Chainti while on on vacation, we are from NY. We typically don't go out for Italian because no restaurants can meet our expectations. We are both Italian and cook good foods. We were pleasantly surprised to find this jem of a place. The food was as good as my mother's and motherin laws home made Italian. I would recommend this place to anyone. Bravo to the chef. If you take kids have them try the pizza. I tried a piece of my daughters and it was fabulous. This is not fast food dough or sauce.

Dinner at Chianti  

Service was good considering that the restaurant was full, the table was not the best one. The food was great we had the tartar for starters, my wife had the crab ravioli and I had the seafood risotto it was delicious. There was no valet parking and I had to park at Horton Plaza and walk a couple of blocks, but that is ok. I do recommend the restaurant. Great overall experience!

Anniversary celebration  

Had a great meal here. The staff was friendly and attentive. We were treated to a nice desert to celebrate. I would definitely come back.

Excellent restaurant  

David our waiter was excellent as always. I had a seafood pasta special and the sauce was bland, which is very unusual for this place. My wife and I have eaten here several times and always wonderful service and great food. This last time her food was excellent, mine was below par. I highly recommend this restaurant, just don't order the seafood pasta special.

wonderful  

ok to use what i wrote on earlier form (why required a second time?)

Great Place  

Very good place to eat dinner, service could have been a little more efficient, but was still ok, not sure if the waiter was new or not, but overall a great experience and I would definitely return.

I would recommend it  

GREAT food, selection, and service. Looks fancy in the pictures. I expected everyone to be dressed very nicely. I was disappointed that they weren't. Overall, it was a great night and I would recommend this place to friends.

Good food experience, poor wait staff experience  

We had reservations for 4 early on a Saturday evening. Overall it was a pleasant evening, but we were quite disappointed in our waiter and bus boy care, attention, and difficulty getting someone's attention (which often ended up being a man who appeared to be the manager). The food was very good and some items on the extensive menu had interesting twists - particularly the daily special list. I would recommend the place to a friend but would warn them about our waiter (or don't make plans for after dinner)

Chianti in DTSD  

He food was good at the restaurant, but the leftovers were better. The Veal I had was too saturated in sauce; the meat was very tender (how else would veal be); he service was amazing. Beacause of the location, the price was appropriate. However, if it wasn't in DTSD, it definitely wouldn't have been worth the $150+ I spent. ($90 would have been more appropriate.)

Large dinner meeting  

Two days ago I arranged to have a dinner meeting for 20 people at Mare & Monti. The service was good and the food even better. The people attending the dinner really enjoyed themselves. We had a semi-private area with curtains that really worked out well. Would recommend and will have dinner again here.

Nice, but good for families too  

Mare and Monti is a wonderful restaurant with very reasonable prices. They seem to be very family friendly without compromising on quality.