De Medici

815 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
$$$ Italian Top 10 Recommended Special Offer Private Room Gift Certificates Outdoor Seating

Beyond the heavy glass doors of De Medici lies a wonderland of delight and extravagance. Once inside, wrapped in the cozy embrace of one of the booths, guests are welcomed to linger over an amazing meal and absorb an evening of tantalizing experiences. Under the insistence of owner Salavatore Vitale, many of the signature dishes are still created table-side. The soft rosy glow and intimate ambiance of the dining room is punctuated by the bright flashes of flambéing Bananas Foster and Steak Diane. Specializing in both Northern and Southern Italian cuisine, Chef Ricardo Macias charms the palates of many with his supreme offerings of mouthwatering fare. By serving recipes passed down through generations of Italians, De’Medici caters to guests with deft familiarity and graciously serves up a comforting taste of home.

The Italian Renaissance on 5th Avenue

Review by

Alongside the bustle of downtown, oblivious to the endless rush of cars and tourists alike, De’Medici occupies its coveted 5th Avenue location with humble pride. The restaurant’s understated elegance with its crisp white table linens and savory scents emanating from the kitchen shamelessly attract the attention of hungry diners. In the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, this dining establishment offers guests a chance to escape the ordinary as they can be transported through its thick glass doors to another plane of time. With specializations in both Northern and Southern Italian dishes, as well as a foray into steak and seafood offerings, De’Medici provides patrons an opportunity to sample the many different faces of authentic Italian cooking. 

With our heels clicking lightly down the street, my companion and I approach the entrance with nothing short of giddiness. Grasping the large brass handle, we push the doors open and enter noiselessly into a small receiving room.  Suggestive of venues on the East Coast, where winter weather encourages guests to escape the cold, we appreciate the front room and momentarily examine the small wooden host desk and thick reservation book. Looking up, we are greeted immediately by the smiling face of our hostess and are introduced warmly to General Manager Mario Valerio. His gracious manner and friendly demeanor assures me that our evening at De’Medici will be nothing short of extraordinary. 

Exiting the foyer, we are bathed in the rosy glow of soft lighting and simple splendor. Occupying a larger space than would appear from the outside, the walls and high ceilings are covered with lightly sketched frescos. Situated in the back left corner is the bar, where the soft hues of green and blue light scatter on the walls and glitter off an impressive display of liquor bottles. Tendrils of curling ivy cascade from elevated wall sconces and small, intimate tables grace the front of the floor. Situated grandly under the impressive wrought iron and crystal chandelier is an enormous curved dining table. Reminiscent of past holidays enjoyed at home with the family, I cannot help but imagine how an evening spent around its circular expanse would create an unforgettable night of memories. 

Awoken from my momentary daydream, I slide sideways into the large semicircular embrace of their grand presidential booth. The table is covered in a heavy white cloth and silver chargers gleam invitingly at each setting. Our server, Juan, comes over and introduces himself. Friendly and attentive, he takes our drink order with a practiced air and makes his way towards the bar. As I finger through the menu I discover the variety of dishes offered by Executive Chef Ricardo Macias. I take my time perusing the extensive pages, glancing up occasionally to watch the bustling front room and beautiful banquet area. 

Catching my eye, as I survey the room, is a  large wine aerator being utilized at a neighboring booth. Tall and stately, the graceful arch of its silver neck supports a triangular reservoir that nests a small crystal globe. As I watch, the server artfully uncorks a bottle; and holding it aloft, pours a thin stream over at the bulb, which now I see is filled with water. This, he explains, chills the wine to the perfect temperature as well as enhances its bouquet. As the entire bottle quickly fills the contraption I marvel at the novelty of a table side service that they have so cleverly turned into a show. 

Turning back to the menu, my guest and I decide on an excellent sampling of dishes and smile as our drinks are quickly brought to the table. I sip my cocktail and enjoy the sensation that only a crisp, clean Tanqueray martini can produce. A touch of vermouth and a wash of juniper berries clear my head and only give way when overpowered by the briny tartness of the skewered olive I pop into my mouth. Looking over at my companion, I see her sip a shining flute of Prosecco.   It glows golden in the rosy light and tiny bubbles snake their way up the sides of the glass. Accepting a taste, I find it cool, refreshing, and exceedingly dry; the lemony flavors dance on my taste buds and delight the senses. 

As the appetizers are served, I gaze at the vibrant colors and exceptional care put into each dish.  Looking down, I carefully inspect the overlapping slices of tender Beef Carpaccio placed invitingly on the plate in front of me.  Arranged in a circular fashion around a small pile of julienned arugula, they are finished with a light dressing of truffle oil and a generous sprinkling of capers. Agreeing that the quick crack of pepper offered by Juan is the perfect addition; I slide my fork under one of the delicate medallions and admire its beautiful pink color and scent. I sigh as velvety, beefy flavor overwhelms my palate and the heady aroma of truffles fills my nose.  The fine marbling of fat that I first observed when the dish arrived becomes even more evident as each bite of meaty, salty goodness melts almost instantaneously on my tongue. The peppery spiciness of the arugula and the explosive pop of each caper add a well-appreciated freshness to the dish.   

Slowly savoring the last bits of beef, a steaming bowl of Minestrone soon catches my attention. I place my spoon into the hot, thick soup, and scoop up a generous portion of carrots, onion, and zucchini. I bring the rich broth up to my lips and gently blow it cool before carefully taking a taste.  The pungent aroma of garlic and spices envelopes my senses and transports me to childhood memories of a cozy winter evening spent at home.  Savoring the earthy undertones and layers of flavor, I understand why minestrone means “the big soup.”  It is not only full bodied, but also built upon a classic mixture of seasonal vegetables and kitchen staples.  

As I sip the delicious last drop of soup, Juan appears wheeling a small cart upon which sits our Salad De'Medici. White pillows of mozzarella, creamy avocado, woody hearts of palm, and fresh arugula sit in a bright pile on the small clean plate.  Accompanying the dish are two small vials of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil meant to dress the salad.  Carefully applying a light drizzle of each, I eagerly dive into the crisp green leaves and tender cheese.  The mozzarella is farm-fresh and creamy, while the hearts of palm add an interesting contrast in texture. Small shavings of parmesan add a welcomed element of salt and also serve to season the smoothness of the avocado.  Finally, the acidity provided by the tang of balsamic vinegar is the ideal component to finish the dish. 

Gliding over, our server arrives bearing a circular white plate filled to the brim with steaming Lasagna and Marinara Sauce. The plate is hot to the touch and covered with a dash of green parsley. Crumbly islands of Parmesan cheese melt slightly into the top of the pasta as I carefully trim off a corner with my fork.  Cautiously sampling it, I find that the pasta is still al dente, filled with luxurious ricotta and stringy, melted mozzarella. The exhilarating flavors of tomato and basil rush onto my tongue and combine beautifully with the rich cheeses.  Although the flavors of the vegetarian lasagna are already wonderful, Mario brings out a small bowl of slow cooked, Bolognese sauce as a happy addition.  He lovingly explains the history of the sauce and how it was created by the grandmother of restaurant owner, Salvatore Vitale. This particular recipe was handed down through generations of Italians, he says, until finally it was perfected by Vitale’s grandmother and served every Sunday as a family tradition.  The sauce combines beef and veal with tomato, spices, and garlic to create a mixture that is both-full-bodied, rustic, and hearty. Such deep flavors and excellent texture can only be obtained through the long process of careful slow cooking.  

Already content, our anticipation heightens as the promise of sampling the Chef's signature dish, the Sole Portofino, is now at hand. Baked to a crisp golden brown, the sole is stuffed with a velvety mixture of lobster, crab, and shrimp, and is served with sides of steamed asparagus, creamed spinach, and cinnamon-scented baby carrots. The carefully piped ring of mashed potatoes on the edge of the dish makes for a plate that is both visually stunning and delicious.  Breaking into the delicate filet, I am rewarded with forkfuls of flaky fish and luscious, creamy lobster.  The firm consistency of the accompanying vegetables is a perfect foil to the savory, tender nature of the sole.  

The Ahi, ordered by my companion, provides a complete change in flavor and balances our selection wonderfully.  Straying away from the creamy, heavy richness of the lobster, crab, and shrimp stuffing, the tuna is plated upon a bed of Arborio rice prepared in a risotto style.  Upon the first cut into the steak, we find that the inside is still beautifully pink and moist.  With tiny black and white sesame seeds crusting the exterior, each slice of buttery and tender Ahi is a stimulating lesson in contrast and texture.  Seared rare, this 8oz steak is accompanied by grilled asparagus brushed in extra virgin olive oil, and is served with a side of a hoisin-based glaze.   With this, diners are introduced to an even more complex palate. Once paired with a sip of Prosecco, the addition of citrus and bubbles evokes yet another layer of flavor and enhances the dish’s already refreshing notes.  

Satiated by a delicious surfeit of food and drink, I am surprised that I still have a desire for something sweet to finish off the meal.  Taking up Mario’s recommendation, my guest and I order the Strawberries Martinique and are rewarded with an excellent tableside show.  Our server Juan arrives bearing a large bowl filled with a mountain of shaved ice and fresh, long stemmed strawberries. He wheels a cart tableside and proceeds to demonstrate his talent for showmanship.  Holding up a large silver bowl, he whisks together brown sugar and cream into a smooth billowy cloud.  Then, picking up a bottle of Myers Dark Rum, he winks mischievously and adds a fair amount into the mixture.  Still whisking, he streams in Orange Curacao and completes the concoction with a generous measure of Gran Marnier. With a grand show of long pours and smiles, he carefully fills two crystal stemmed goblets with cream, and watches with pleasure as we dip in the fruit and take our first bite.  Dazzled by the playful nature of the dish and appreciative of its cool smooth consistency, I am amazed at how the alcohol enhances the nature sweetness of the berries.  Light, airy, and fresh, the strawberries and cream is a whimsical adult indulgence that combines the pleasures of an after dinner drink with fruity dessert.  

With dessert quickly finished, I lean back to luxuriate in comfortable afterglow of a wonderful meal.  Resting my head against the tall leather back of the booth, I am surprised to see Mario making his way over to our table. Holding out a frosted bottle of canary yellow liqueur, he places three tall crystal shot glasses on the table and fills them with sparkling Limoncello. He explains how it is customary in Italian culture to enjoy a sip of the palate-cleansing liquid at the end of the meal.  More than happy to accept, I hold the glass up and toast; remembering all the lovely events of the night and thankful I could spend them with such welcoming company.  The flavor is bright and clean with a warm citrusy finish. 

Shaking hands with Mario and exchanging words of gratitude, I slide slowly out of the tall booth and breathe in the lingering flavors of lemon. I float towards the front of the room and once again pass though the wide glass doors.  Glancing over my shoulder, I smile as my feet lead me out onto the streets and back into the wild din of downtown.  As the sun sets on another warm day in San Diego, the cool green awning of De’Medici catches the last rays of the fading light and glows softly, continually beckoning diners inside with promises of hot food and warm hospitality. Ciao!




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Business Info

  • Address: 815 5th Avenue, San Diego CA 92101
  • Cross Street: F Street
  • Location: Downtown | Gaslamp Quarter
  • Cuisine: Italian | Pasta | Seafood |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Business Casual
  • Meals Served: Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Valet Parking |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover | Diners Club |
  • Corkage Fee: 15.00 | Per 750ml bottle. Depends on Wine.
  • Staff: Ricardo Macias | Executive Chef
  • Phone: (619) 702-7228
  • Features: Full Bar, Outdoor Seating, Prix Fixe Menu, Smoking Area, Takeout Available, Winning Wine List, Wheelchair Access, Valet Parking, Happy Hours, Personal Wines Allowed, Lounge / Bar,
  • Occasion: Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, People Watching, Quiet Conversation, Special Occasion,


De Medici - Spagetti Basil
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Business Hours

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


Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Happy Hour is Monday-Thursday from 5pm-7pm. There are drink specials as well as small bites specials.
Yes, De Medici does have a full bar.
De Medici can seat up to 125 guests in their dining room, as well as 28 guests outside on their heated patio.
Yes, the restaurant does host private parties. There are a few different menu options. Please inquire with us for more details.
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Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes