Sit at a table at Firenze Trattoria and let yourself be transported to Italy. The quaint Italian restaurant, tucked in the hills of Encinitas, seems worlds away from the bustle of San Diego. Whether you choose to dine on the soothing outdoor patio or calm, or inside the elegant interior dining room, you are sure to feel at ease. The cuisine is as authentic as the space, with an extensive menu of savory Italian fare including alluring pastas and risottos, fresh, flavorful fish, and tempting house specialties such as Veal Scaloppini, Chicken Piccata, and Eggplant Parmesan. An extensive, Italian-centric wine list and gracious, hospitable service complement an already outstanding dining experience.Read More ...
Stepping through the entrance of Firenze Trattoria, the first thing guests will find is a sense of serenity. A smiling hostess stands just beyond the double glass doors, waiting to greet each guest graciously. Warm taupe tones and low lighting seem to slow down the pace of the evening, suggesting that there are pleasures ahead that are best experienced slowly.
Behind the hostess stand, a long lounge doubles as a walkway to the restaurant proper, and as I walk past plush, low booths and a trickling waterfall, I have not a care in the world. Suddenly, I’m in a cheerful, friendly room, with a small crowd of regulars gathered at a bar, and many more sprinkled at tables. While the restaurant is quite full, the tables are comfortably spaced and the acoustics are astoundingly quiet, so that it seems each separate table is enjoying a relatively private experience.
As we are seated at a corner table, I can’t help but feel at home. We are quickly greeted by our server, Brendan, who proves gracious and professional, a consummate host. Indeed, all the staff at Firenze Trattoria seem genuinely dedicated to ensuring guests thoroughly enjoy their meal. I’d venture to say that the service at Firenze Trattoria makes the dining experience, were the experience not already exceptional thanks to the setting and the cuisine. Still, while good food can be found almost anywhere, good service is hard to come by—at Firenze Trattoria it comes naturally.
At ease and with smiles on our faces, we set to work on the menu and wine list, both of which are enjoyably vast and varied. The wine list is enviable, with an exquisite range of Italian and Californian varietals that have earned the restaurant a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. A scan of the list reveals some outstanding bottles, such as a 2003 Antinori Tignanello and a 1998 Tenuta dell Ornellaia.
The wine by the glass selection includes about 30 options, and is varied and entertaining on its own. We begin with glasses of Tolloy Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, and a Banfi Toscano Rosso from Centine, both upon Brendan’s recommendation. Later, we'll transition to two more full-bodied wines, an outstanding Aia Meritage from Oakville, and an Antinori Super Tuscan.
The menu is as enticing as the wine list, and it is truly difficult to decide on just a few selections. Executive Chef Italio Peveri has been with Firenze Trattoria since it’s opening in 1994, and brings with him decades of expertise cooking specialties from his homeland. He is particularly known for his pastas, and it would be impossible to visit the restaurant without trying at least one.
First, however, the antipasti call. The Polenta Fungi e Gorgonzola is comfort on a plate, featuring soft, pillow-like polenta mixed with creamy gorgonzola and topped with a glistening layer of buttery mushrooms. Each forkful offers a creamy dose of satisfaction, with the airy polenta, creamy cheese, and savory mushrooms all melding into one. The dish is as comforting as home cooking, and I imagine myself in a small farmhouse in Italian countryside wanting nothing more than the steaming, comforting dish.
The Melanzane Napolitano is a rich concoction of vibrant flavors that brings me back to the present. Roasted eggplant, sundried tomatoes, and fresh basil are pureed into a spread-like consistency, peppered with slivers of red onion, crumbled goat cheese, and whole black olives. Served chilled, the soft, smooth mélange offers several dimensions of flavor. The freshness of the basil stands out in smoky bursts, while sweet eggplant and tart tomatoes lend a rich tang. This is a dish to eat slowly, to savor the intricacies of each bite.
The Calamari Fritti, however, is a dish that disappears quickly. Thick rings of plump calamari are lightly breaded, fried to that perfect crispness that lends a salty sweetness without being heavy. Their texture is the perfect match for the accompanying marinara sauce, whose vibrancy and flavor are so good I take several spoonfuls of it alone. Deep layers of flavor resonate in the tomato basil sauce, as if boasting its authenticity—rich, full, and lingering, this is true Italian marinara.
A soup and salad course provides a wide spectrum of options, but it would be hard to pass up the Shrimp Bisque. The rust-colored bowl of soup is almost chowder-like in richness, but not too rich that the flavor of the shrimp doesn’t shine through. So many seafood bisques mask the delicate flavor of the actual seafood, but this version does the opposite—it’s not an easy feat. Each creamy bite resonates with the freshness of shrimp, with a subtle backbone of tomato and cream serving to heighten, rather that outshine, the star player.
And then it is time for the highlight of the meal—the pasta course. There are so many intriguing options on the restaurant’s menu that it seems impossible to choose; luckily, each choice seems equally prepared to perfection.
Ravioli alone comes in many variations, each seeming more tempting than the last. Traditionalists will delight in the Ravioli di Formaggio, thick pockets of herbed ricotta tossed with a fresh, textured tomato basil sauce. The dichotomy between the vibrant, fresh sauce and the creamy filling is what makes each bite interesting, the savory tomatoes, basil, and garlic medley mingling with the creamy cheese on the palate.
More adventurous diners will find the Maine Lobster Ravioli a decadent choice, featuring plump, striped pillows smothered in a decadent tomato cream sauce. The sweet, brandy-spiked sauce is a colorful orange, a perfect complement to the black-and-tan-striped pasta sheets. The playfulness of the presentation belies the serious flavor—the rich, lush lobster and ricotta filling embracing the equally rich sauce in a harmonious definition of elegant comfort.
Perhaps the most satisfying of the stuffed pastas are the most surprising. A Butternut Squash Ravioli looks the plainest of the array, pale rectangles unadorned except for a light sage butter sauce. Resting on a bed of wilted spinach, the dish looks plain and unassuming—two things it most certainly is not. The revelation comes when the first forkful is just inches from the mouth, when the aroma of the butternut squash filling wafts toward the nose. It is strangely reminiscent, but I can’t place the elusive aroma until the ravioli is in my mouth. When my tongue discovers the creamy, airy filling it hits me: pumpkin pie. Pureed with aromatic, pumpkin-pie-like spices, the butternut filling is so rich, so decadent it could pass as dessert.
The Pasta Rustic is a shining example of Chef Peveri’s intensely unique creations. Like many others, this dish seems like a treasure from a gracious Italian cook's home kitchen rather than a dish served at a formal restaurant. Perfectly cooked linguini serves as a bed for a feisty medley of wilted spinach, diced prosciutto, garlic, gorgonzola, and pine nuts. Each component seems precisely selected for its ability to both stand alone and mesh with others. Sharp, salty prosciutto, nutty, rich pine nuts, earthy, moist spinach, and creamy blue cheese seem to each touch on a different dimension of taste. It’s a dish I could eat nightly.
Then, there's the lasagna—the most raved-about dish on the menu. A massive tower of plush layers sits in a pool of red sauce, draped with an elegant cloak of pale white béchamel sauce. Rather than melding together into indistinguishable strata, the layers remain distinct: thick sheets of pasta balance atop plump ground meat and thick slivers of mushroom. The textures are rough and bold, which is why the subtle, delicate flavors come as such a pleasant surprise. The gentleness of ground veal, chicken, and beef don't cut through the creaminess of the sauces, they augment them, embracing the luscious béchamel, the rich tomato. It is harmony at its greatest.
If there is one genre Chef Peveri enjoys as much as pasta, it is veal, and the Veal Picatta is a standout among several veal entrees. Pale pink, pasta-thin cutlets rest in a pool of lemon-butter sauce, spotted by feisty capers. It is classic in presentation and execution, the gentle flavor of veal lifted by the light acidity in the sauce and the capers' piquant tang. While I’d be hard-pressed to pass up on pasta, the Veal Picatta does offer a decadent alternative.
Dessert at Firenze Trattoria seems a natural extension of the meal, with an array of comforting selections that are delightful in both presentation and flavor. A chocolate and raspberry Tartufo threatens to steal the show, a playful sphere of chocolate-coated chocolate gelato with a vibrant pink core of raspberry sorbet. Each bite is transporting—a perfectly harmonious combination of two brilliantly harmonious ingredients. A house-made Tiramisu is a thick rectangle of creamy strata that deliciously meld together as one. Underlying flavors of espresso and cream keep each bite light and lively, offering a sweetly satisfying end.
Firenze Trattoria is a restaurant that strikes every chord: service, setting, wine selection, and cuisine. It is a place that manages to stay comfortable and friendly while still offering an air of elegance. It is a place that Encinitas locals are lucky to have in their neighborhood and that, for those who live outside the neighborhood, is well worth making a destination.
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Wonderful food, friendly staff, great atmosphere!
The food and wine were delicously wonderful! Great atmosphere to have a nice date night.
The quality of the food was exquisite. The waitress was very likable. The ambiance was very relaxing and nice.I'm not necessarily a fancy diner, but I have a hard time justifying spending 80 dollars for a dinner for two without ordering any wine. No food is worth that much.This is an excellent restaurant, especially for anniversaries, and I highly recommend that anyone who lives in San Diego for a good amount of time tries this place at least once. P.S. The Lasagna was the best I've ever had, and coming from an Italian family, I've had my share of lasagna.
The food was excellent and the wait staff very friendly. I live in Point Loma and chose Firenze Trattoria because it was somewhere we had never been a bit out of our area-what a great find. My guests and I would highly recommend this restaurant!
My wife and I went to Firenze Trattoria for our anniversary. The food was delicious and the service was great. We'd recommend it.
If you are looking for a great dining experience you won't be disappointed in Firenze Trattoria. The food was absolutely great, everyone in our party enjoyed their entree! Our waitress was attentive, and fun, and gave us us some very good recommendations as to what to choose since it was our first visit. The entrees were original and different then other italian restaurants. I highly recommend Firenze Trattoria, this has become one of my favorite top places to eat in San Diego when going out somewhere special!
The food and service were impeccable. The antipasti was the best I've had since my trip to Italy! It was a terrific place to spend our anniversary dinner.
The menu is very diverse and offers and array of dietary options. The quality and appearance of the food was of the best in San Diego. The service was very good and friendly. Not happy about being charged for corkeage after spending 100 on dinner but an overall great experience.
hadn't been to firenze in such a long time, as my girl and i had moved to beachside encinitas with it's scores of italian places. but after a recent visit to firenze i am positive i will drive past them all to this gorgeous trattoria right next door to rancho santa fe. it was my brother who suggested we visit as he worships their traditional lasagne (i'm more of a steak and chops type guy myself).
upon entering i was amazed at what i saw- this quaint neighborhood eatery has transformed itself into a chic, modern spot. jenna and their gm julie made us feel so welcome right away as we got the best table in the house! i must say whoever is running their wine program is on the ball- we got a fantastic "super tuscan" from frescobaldi at a very reasonable price- and i was informed we could get the bottle for half that if we visited on mondays.
starting with a cup of the best shrimp bisque i've had in ages, and my brother said the same about his caesar salad (homemade croutons!). moving onto entrees, the lasagne was even better than he had remembered it, and i even got my chop- a marvelous cut of veal, grilled, on the bone with a sweet balsamic glaze. perfection! we skipped dessert, but i'm sure my girl and i won't when we visit next.
a moment about the service- our jeanette was a doll! lovely, engaging, well informed yet never overbearing-she could teach seminars on upscale service... by now the bar was hopping, so my brother and i sat in for a nightcap. the barman tom suggested their signature martini with pear vodka and st. germain's liquor (which i had never even heard of). clean, refreshing, it was the perfect end to a great nite of dining. we even got to watch the lakers beat the suns in overtime! fantastic firenze, we will see you again soon and often...
We sat on the attractive patio and felt like we had been transported to Italy (we shut out the fact that this restaurant is in a small mall). Our family had a lovely time enjoying the food, service, and great ambiance. We travel to this general area and have typically eaten in restaurants in Encinitas. Firenze Trattoria will definitely be on our list the next time we are there!