Jack's La Jolla - Viaggio

7863 Girard Avenue, San Diego CA 92037
$$$ Italian New Special Offer

At Viaggio, the new Italian concept to join the family of restaurants at Jack’s La Jolla, Executive Chef Tony DiSalvo brings a refreshing creativity and hint of elegance to Italian cuisine. Viaggio’s menu revolves around house-made pastas, such as sweet corn ravioli with Maine lobster, pancetta, tomato, and basil, with DiSalvo drawing on his Italian heritage and family recipes for inspiration. But dishes here are far from ordinary—as he has always done at all of the restaurants within Jack’s, DiSalvo brings a commitment to fresh ingredients, an elegant aesthetic, and a delicate hand to each dish he creates, resulting in stunning and exquisite presentations of contemporary Italian cuisine.

Viaggio Offers a Journey for the Senses

Review by

When Jack's La Jolla opened in 2004, the food world was abuzz. The three-restaurant, four-bar complex quickly won the hearts (and stomachs) of local gourmands and garnered an array of awards and accolades from food and travel authorities. While the complex as a whole was oft-lauded, it was the Dining Room—the intimate fine-dining restaurant on the second floor—that was the real draw; critics and foodies fawned over Executive Chef Tony DiSalvo’s creativity and execution, and his innovative, multicultural approach to haute cuisine.

But DiSalvo himself wasn’t satisfied. He decided the elite, fussy cuisine wasn’t what San Diego needed. He also decided it wasn’t what he wanted to be cooking. Born into a Sicilian family, DiSalvo was wooed by the Italian flavors of his heritage, and in June 2008, he decided it was time to return to his roots. In just three days, he shut down the Dining Room, transformed the kitchen and the menu, and reopened the second floor dining space as Viaggio, an Italian restaurant.

The space largely remains the same: a small, intimate room amid a large culinary complex. Interior windows overlook the Wall Street bar, while an open wall lets the breeze waft in from the street. Baby blue walls emerge between flowy white curtains, while clear vases lend color to the muted, calm space. An experience here is intimate and well-attended to, with several staff members refilling water, offering bread, folding napkins, and ensuring everyone is enjoying themselves.

But that has always been the case. What is new is the food, and the change is extraordinary. DiSalvo’s cooking seems liberated, free, and drowning in a tantalizing blend of creativity, innovation, and a knack for showcasing the inherent qualities of ingredients. A blend of homey and haute, DiSalvo’s dishes stun the senses and awaken the palate, encouraging guests to relish in every forkful of the meal. Viaggio is a place where quality reigns, where attention to detail is tantamount, and where, despite DiSalvo’s intentions to return to a more rooted, down-to-earth cooking style, the dishes are stunning and sensational.

A bit of strategy is needed when it comes to ordering—there are 36 items on the menu and at least half of them seem impossible to pass up. Tasting menus cater to the indecisive, offering both five- and seven-course meals, with or without wine pairings. For a la carte diners, the pasta dishes are offered in two sizes, a tasting portion and an appetizer portion, allowing even those with the smallest of appetites to indulge in a pasta interlude between courses. And please indulge—the pasta course is the highlight of the meal.

But before wooing guests with his house-made pastas, DiSalvo sets out to entertain them with antipasti. Starters are precise and calculated, a collection of dishes that plant a seed of desire for the courses to follow. DiSalvo demonstrates a mastery of pairing diverse yet accommodating flavors, of composing a plate with components that together prove greater than they could ever appear on their own.

Take the Bluefin Tuna Bruschetta, "Italian Riviara Style." A deconstructed niçoise salad plays out in three components—a nest of paper-thin fennel and lemon rinds with halved kalamata olives and fennel fronds; a golden swath of saffron aioli; and a glistening, buttery cibatta brioche topped with a “salsa verde” of anchovy, capers, and herbs, and a perfectly sized piece of raw bluefin tuna. A bite is transporting, the delicate butteriness of the toast met with a pungent herbal undertone; the gentle pureness of the fish heightened by creamy saffron.

Chanterelles with herbs, poached egg and pancetta vinaigrette is a flavorful prelude that harmonizes with the courses to follow. A poached egg perches classically on a thin brioche, garnished with micro chives and parsley and surrounded by a chunky and alluring pancetta vinaigrette. The dish is a rush of earthy comfort, a collection of strong, savory flavors punctured by intermittent kicks of sweet, salty, and acidic from the playful cured pork dressing.

The Truffle Pecorino Panna Cotta is decadent and heady; a dish that blurs the line between starter and dessert and that employs one of the most justified uses of truffles I’ve encountered. The white simmered cream barely holds its form, speckled with tiny, confetti-like specks of black truffle. The airy confection melts like gelato, carrying the truffles lusciously across the tongue from first impression to resonant finish. It is a decadent repose, a flavorful pause, and a reminder to move through courses slowly, savoring each spectacular bite.

All of the pasta selections at Viaggio are made in-house and crafted fresh daily—even the dried pasta shapes. There is enormous debate at our table over which pasta dish entices us the most. The Sweet Corn Ravioli is a clear contender, plump, fresh ravioli squares filled with creamy, sweet ground corn, tossed with a medley of butter-poached lobster, crisp pancetta, corn kernels, and heirloom cherry tomatoes in a rich, buttery lobster broth. Each bite is a harmonious experience—silky, tender, and crisp textures singing a chorus of rich, decadent flavors.

Veal Agnolotti is another winner, a delicate and calculated dish that relishes in the dichotomy of sharp and creamy; savory and sweet. Plump pockets of pasta are nearly translucent, brimming with a deep, savory blend of ground veal and pork, studded with house-made ricotta and parmesan cheese. A delicate white foam bursts with flavor—the salty, piquant essence of parmesan cheese. Black truffles lend an underlying richness to the broth while the filling delightfully mingles creamy cheese with savory meat. This is a dish of kings, haute and elegant, a blend of decadent comfort with sharp, resonant flavor.

By contrast, the Campanelle is rustic and heartwarming, a simple dish that plays on subtlety. Wedding-bell-shaped pasta florets perfectly embrace a thin tomato broth, catching a bit of liquid with each bite. Plump pink New Caledonian prawns rest among the curled pasta shapes, while tiny pieces of guanciale—cured pig cheek—and slivers of mild green chilies stud the otherwise pale dish. A bite is fresh and intriguing, but comforting enough to remind of the pleasures of simplicity.

In the end, the pasta that wins me over proves to be the simplest—the Potato Gnocchi with ragu bolognese. It is classic and traditional, a dish that is neither creative nor novel, yet—probably because of this—reveals DiSalvo's talent, dedication to quality, and understanding of texture and flavor. It is perfectly executed: the potato pillows are large and fluffy, practically deflating with the touch of the fork. Their pillowy texture provides a rich, creamy backdrop to a coarse, thick sauce of ground veal and pork, seducing the palate with a perfect dichotomy of delicate and hearty. The dish is rustic and real, and yet naturally elegant.

The entrée course anchors the meal with a collection of hearty dishes and definitive flavors. The Veal Loin Milanese is an elegant rendition of a classic, featuring a graceful veal loin coated in a crisp, paper-thin layer of glistening panko. It is the accompaniments that prove unique—the loin is topped with a feisty medley of celery leaves, shaved horseradish, yellow grapes, and lemon zest, lifting each bite with a tangy, vibrant kick. The accompanying sage and prosciutto risotto proves an astounding homage to sage, with the herb’s smoky, resonant flavor brilliantly infusing each bite.

Glazed Crispy Squab is a treat, a deep, complex dish that plays on the marriage of earthy and sweet. The small game bird lays upside-down on the plate, surrounded by a verdant swath of arugula jus. The skin pulls off easily, and the flesh beneath is rosy and sweet. An accompanying farro and cherry risotto, or farroto, is deep brown and resonant, a hearty and intriguing compliment. Micro arugula provides tempered sharpness that refreshes the palate with a peppery embrace.

Dessert at Viaggio plays up the glorious sweets of the Italian peninsula, with a menu that reads like a sweet tooth's dream: panna cotta, cannoli, semifreddo, and pan d' oro. The Tiramiso "Affogato" is a delightful rendition, featuring a tableside presentation that drowns a sponge cake base in a shot of espresso—after two minutes the cake absorbs the coffee, bringing a fresh pungent flavor to each bite.

Chocolate and Brioche Budino is a rich, decadent pudding, served warm alongside a cold scoop of deviant and tempting nutella gelato. Drowning in a glazed chocolate sauce and boasting a soft consistency that evokes a gooey brownie center, the budino brings a fudge-like richness, yet a light texture that forms a perfect finale to the meal.

I leave the restaurant with my jaw agape, running over the textures, and colors, and flavor combinations in my mind. Tony DiSalvo is a master of his craft, a man in tune to texture and flavor, and who isn't afraid to veer into uncharted territory to show guests the wondrous possibilities of the plate. His new concept allows him to be both comfortable and daring, and holds limitless possibility as the menu evolves. Whether you go for the pasta alone or subject yourself to the wonders of a tasting menu, you're in for a stunning and exquisite treat, an unrivaled and memorable journey of the senses.

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Business Info

  • Address: 7863 Girard Avenue, San Diego CA 92037
  • Cross Street: Wall Street
  • Location: La Jolla & UTC | La Jolla Village
  • Cuisine: Italian |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual Elegant
  • Meals Served: Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Public Lot | Valet Parking |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover | Diners Club |
  • Corkage Fee: 25.00 | per bottle
  • Staff: Chris Crary | Executive Chef
  • Phone: (858) 456-8111
  • Features: Full Bar, Ocean View, Live Entertainment, Organic Ingredients, Outdoor Seating, Private Room, Prix Fixe Menu, Smoking Area, Takeout Available, Tasting Menu, Winning Wine List, Working Fireplace, Wheelchair Access, Valet Parking, Happy Hours,
  • Occasion: Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Meet for a Drink, People Watching, Quiet Conversation, Special Occasion,


Jack's La Jolla - Viaggio - Bluefin Tuna Bruschetta Jack's La Jolla - Viaggio - Roasted Maine Lobster Jack's La Jolla - Viaggio - Grilled New York Steak Jack's La Jolla - Viaggio - Braised Veal Osso Buco Jack's La Jolla - Viaggio - Arugula and port poached pear salad

Business Hours

Reservations Available
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
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Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes