Trattoria Bella Vita is located off Mount Soledad Road and offers La Jolla locals a taste of Northern and Southern Italian cuisine. This restaurant has a friendly, cozy atmosphere and presents delicious and artistic cooking. On their extensive dinner menu, the pizze, pasta, secondi, and insalate categories provide many delectable options along with a menu for the kids. The chef also presents daily specials, which uses the freshest produce available. The house specialty is the Spaghetti con Polpette, which is a traditional Sicilian meatballs recipe. Takeout is available with a minimum order of $20.Read More ...
Tucked away in a quaint and tiny shopping center located off Soledad Mountain Road is the hidden and cozy Trattoria Bella Vita. This restaurant offers guests magnificent cuisine inspired from the Northern and Southern regions of Italy. It's one of those mom-and-pop restaurants that deliver amazing authentic cuisine that the big restaurant chains skimp on. They provide quality service and food made with the freshest ingredients available. Trattoria Bella Vita is a romantic restaurant and a local favorite for some of the finest Italian food San Diego has to offer.
Trattoria Bella Vita’s owners Giuseppe and Caterina Trinca, a married Italian couple that met in Sicily, had a love for Italian cuisine and bought this little restaurant located by the Windemere La Jolla residence. The couple bought this restaurant in February 2008 because they enjoyed its small and warm presence. Caterina had prior experience with the restaurant business, running one with her parents. Caterina’s past restaurant experience led her to run the front of the house of Trattoria Bella Vita, while Giuseppe can be found in the kitchen alongside Executive Chef Mario Gutierrez, formerly of Il Fornaio.
The exterior can be deceiving, because the real beauty of this restaurant lies within the food, the service, and the intimate atmosphere. Once you enter the restaurant, to your left is an open kitchen where you can see Chef Mario creating colorful and creative dishes for patrons.
The walls are painted a canary yellow and the windows have crimson curtains that make the restaurant feel as if it is located in Trastevere, a neighborhood of Rome where the locals are found dining on non-touristy Italian cuisine. Italian-inspired art and candle holders are on the wall, to help instill a lively Italian vibe. Also hanging on the walls are wine racks filled with the wines that are featured on the wine list along with dangling wine glasses. The tables are topped with white tablecloths and vases filled with festive, bright red daisies. In one nook is a private table for two, which is suitable for a romantic date. The restaurant has only nine tables and seats approximately 30 people. This small dining room makes for a charming dining experience. There is also an outdoor patio where guests can dine during hot summer nights and enjoy the San Diego air.
As we were seated, we were given the wine list, which is comprised of diverse wines chosen by Giuseppe. The first half of the wine list is devoted to Italian wines and the second half is made up of California wines. Underneath each wine is a description of it, indicating what it tastes like and what it would be good to accompany. This can be helpful for those who don’t know much about wine, let alone these particular Italian wines.
The first dish my companion and I tried was the Calamari Fritti, which came in a heaping and generous portion. The calamari was delivered on a white plate with three lemon wedges, drizzled balsamic vinegar, paprika, and parsley lining the outer rim. Next to the mountain of calamari was a bowl of warm and flavorsome marinara sauce for dipping. The calamari was lightly crispy and breaded in a non-greasy fashion, and the squid had a chewy texture. Underneath the calamari was a pesto sauce that it could also be dipped in, which made this dish different than typical calamari versions served only with marinara sauce. This appetizer was addicting, and we couldn’t stop eating it throughout the entire meal.
The next appetizer was the Bruschetta Rustica served as a large portion as well. On the plate were three large pieces of grilled ciabatta bread lightly rubbed with garlic and covered with diced tomatoes and freshly chopped basil mixed with ground pepper. Paprika, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil were drizzled on the outer edge of the plate. In the first bite, the fresh chopped basil made its presence known and complemented the tomatoes doused in olive oil (which is imported from Italy, according to Caterina). Already full and satisfied at this point, we continued on with our meal, excited to see what our entrees would be like.
For one of our entrees, we got the Sea Bass Bella Vita, which is one of Trattoria Bella Vita’s specialties and one of their most popular requests. The dish was elegantly prepared with a row of 10 small asparagus, rosemary-roasted potatoes, and a garnish of red, green, and yellow bell peppers and three toasted spaghetti bursting out of the filet like a party favor. This dish consisted of a fresh filet of blue nose sea bass, sautéed in olive oil, garlic, white wine, and lemon. It was served over sautéed spinach and topped with fresh chopped pieces of mango mixed with a mango ginger sauce. Everything about this dish was appealing and appetizing. The sea bass was covered in a creamy and milky sauce that contrasted the mango flavors but at the same time complemented it. This dish incorporated ingredients from Italian-Mediterranean cuisine with a unique mango concoction.
The next entrée we tried was the Filetto alla Mignotta. This dish was prepared with the same red, yellow, and green bell pepper garnishes, asparagus, and potatoes as the Sea Bass entrée. But this dish tasted and looked completely different than the last. This dish had two large filet mignon medallions beneath a large Portobello mushroom that was drenched in a port wine sauce mixed with chopped mushrooms. The big Portobello mushroom was succulent and juicy, and it tasted divine with the tender filet medallions. The flavors of this dish were bold, slightly sweet, and mouth-watering.
After eating these delicious entrees, it was hard to fathom that dessert was about to be served. For dessert, we got the cannoli and the tiramisu. The cannoli came in a hard, deep-fried, cylinder-shaped shell overflowing with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. It was served with two maraschino cherries, garnished with mint, and the plate was drizzled with strawberry, caramel, and chocolate syrup for extra sweetness. This dessert was rich and reminded us of being kids again devouring each chocolate chip.
Next was the tiramisu, which is one-of-a-kind at Trattoria Bella Vita. It was served on a triangular plate with chocolate and strawberry syrup drizzled in the most intricate pattern with a dollop of whipped cream and a strawberry with a sprig of fresh mint. The tiramisu was the size of half a brick, and it was really tempting to finish it because it was so rich and tasty. It is homemade at the restaurant and we could tell because the tiramisu was fluffy and had the appearance of a freshly baked cake. In between layers of the fluffy cake was mascarpone cheese, which gave off a custard-like flavor and appearance. The top of the tiramisu was sprinkled with cocoa and espresso. This is a must-try dessert even if you feel like you can’t eat one more thing.
Although Trattoria Bella Vita is a small restaurant and is hard to find, it is well worth discovering and giving a try. It has delectable Italian cuisine created by a superior chef along with friendly and warm service to accompany a satisfying and fulfilling meal. The portions are gigantic, so sharing a dish with a friend or planning on leftovers is a good idea. Each dish is carefully prepared with ingredients that exude freshness and the highest quality. I intend on going to Trattoria Bella Vita and becoming one of their regulars because their food is truly one of the best Italian places in town. Buon Appetito!
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