Monday, June 23, 2008

Trattoria Acqua La Jolla

Sometimes I just want get out of town and spend a day as a tourist, when I'm in that mood, one of the places I love to go is La Jolla Village. I love wandering around town window shopping the galleries and clothing stores, trying out old and new restaurants, and simply enjoying the ocean air and spirit of this beach community. The town has grown into a sprawling metropolis since I first started coming here in my college years, but one place keeps beckoning me back to visit and revisit.

A meal at Trattoria Acqua is enough of a reason to come to La Jolla. I discovered this hidden restaurant by accident one day as I was shopping in the complex above it. If you are walking on Prospect, the restaurant is actually below the street because the street slopes down a steep grade towards the ocean. That means that you get an ocean view as you dine at one of the window seats (the courtyard is also a pleasant experience if you can't get a reservation for one of the coveted view tables). Go for an early dinner so you are seated to enjoy the sunset over the ocean as you eat your meal by candlelight. This is a great place to take a date, but you can go with friends or solo, and still feel comfortable in the casual seaside atmosphere.

The food is rustic Italian based on organic ingredients, so the result is both familiar and fresh at the same time. I love their quaglie a beccafico, roasted sonoma quails wrapped with Italian bacon, with a stuffing of spinach, raisins and pine nuts, served with grilled polenta and a Marsala-mushroom sauce. When I'm in the mood for seafood I order the scampi al aglio, baked black tiger shrimp crusted with Parmesan breadcrumbs, garlic, white wine and parsley butter, served with baked polenta and organic vegetables. If you have any room for dessert after dinner (don't try to be a hero, just eat until you are full and take the rest home), get their budino di mirtile, warm blueberry bread pudding with blueberry gelato (there is fruit in the dessert, so doesn't that make it light?).

Service here is probably the best I have had in La Jolla, balancing attention and timing, while going above and beyond the ordinary. On one of my visits I ordered a daily fish special with a vanilla sauce that I did not care for and my waitress noticed that I did not eat much of my entree, so she not only asked me what I did not like (the sauce was too sweet for me, but the fish was excellent). She removed my plate and REPLACED my entire entree and substituted the special vanilla sauce with a simple piccata sauce. I tipped her very generously for her service to show my gratitude for making my meal so enjoyable. I have had entrees exchanged for another or problems with an entree fixed, but aside from Acqua, I have never had an entree CHANGED because of my personal preference.

After your meal take a passeggi (stroll) along the shoreline or on Prospect as everyone in Italy does after their evening meal. This is truly la Dolce Vita (the good life).