Featuring San Diego restaurants has been so fun lately. Papa Bird and I have enjoyed every single meal we’ve shared at Prep Kitchen and Whisknladle. So when my friend, Cassidy, invited me to happy hour, or “Aperitivo,” at Catania Coastal Italian, the latest from Whisknladle Hospitality, “YES” was an easy answer. In addition to the excellent, peak of season food you might expect, Catania has a peaceful ocean view and laid back, upscale vibe.
Disclaimer: We were invited by the restaurant to sample the Aperitivo menu and craft cocktails. I wouldn’t share here if I wasn’t impressed and thought my readers would appreciate. The general manager, Steven, even invited the two of us behind the bar to view all the Italian liquors, wines and craft beers. Being old (well me, not Cassidy), married moms, we tried not to get into too much trouble.
Aperitivo Menu at Catania
The menu changes frequently with seasonal availability, but my pick of the summer happy hour menu was easily the Gorgonzola (pictured at the top of the post). On my first bite, I swore it was the best gorgonzola I had ever tasted. And I take my cheese seriously. Yup, this is the girl that once made a version of Humbolt Fog at home. I grew up sampling everything in the Cheese Shop in Carmel; it was the only store ever that had a charge account for my family. Anyway, at $6 during happy hour, the cheese plate is a surprisingly good value (especially for the upscale location in La Jolla), and is accompanied by fried almonds, a nectarine mostarda, grilled bread, basil and olive oil. Yum!
We sampled, clockwise, from upper left:
- Beef Heart Carpaccio ($6), arugula, parmesan and olive oil.
- Grigliata Mista ($9), Suzie’s Farm squash, peppers, eggplant, basil pesto, and bread crumbs.
- Gorgonzola ($6), fried almonds, nectarine mostarda.
- Prosciutto and Melon ($6), ricotta salata, saba.
Prices listed are for the happy hour, which is daily, 3pm-7pm.
In addition to an impressive collection of Italian wines and craft beers, the cocktails are mighty tasty. Luckily, we were with a group of friendly foodies, and were able to taste many of the cocktails.
I gravitated towards the Grigio Bianco (Gin, Carpano Bianco, Lemon, Thyme and White Wine), as I’m obsessed with vermouth bianco, even simply on the rocks. Our waiter’s recommendation was a Boulevardier, which was not actually on the menu, but replaced the gin in the Negroni (gin, Carpano Antica and Campari) with bourbon. Another favorite of the group was the Api E Radice (vodka, honey, roasted carrot and lemon). Pictured above is the Ciao Bella in the foreground (bourbon, seasonal jam, sweet vermouth, angstura bitters) and a Seasonal Bellini in the background. The Bellini was a little sweet for me, but I am not a Bellini fan.
Above is the famous roasted carrot cocktail and roasted olives. The olives ($6) were roasted with rosemary, orange, garlic and chili flakes, and inspired me to start cooking my olives (see how below.) As long as you are taking advantage of the “Aperitivo” hours, from 3pm to 7pm, the craft cocktails range from $5 to $8– totally reasonable!
So I Was Invited for Happy Hour but Stayed for More
Since the little birds were safe sleeping at home with their papa, and the menu looked so tempting, I ended up staying on! On the recommendation of Steven, I ordered a Yellowfin Crudo, that came with avocado, jalapeño oil, and a melon-cucumber granita that reminded me of a refreshing summer drink. It was amazing, light and cool, perfectly balanced in taste. New friends Laila and Cindy also shared a bite of their Peach and Prosciutto Crostini (below.) I reposted it on Instagram. By the way, I recently made my (four-year-old) Instagram account public and have been enjoying sharing quick glimpses of food and our urban homestead. Please follow!
Catania is Truly Farm to Table
I’ve written before about how every restaurant that boasts a farm to table garden is not all that. And more recently, San Diego Magazine highlighted outright fraud in an article entitled Farm to Fable. Catania’s fresh food is the real deal. I’m so glad I stayed longer and got to hear more. As our water served us a plate of squash roasted with walnuts, rosemary, honey and parmesan, he told us how he and the rest of the staff had planted the squash at Milagro Farms.
“Our waiter planted the squash he served us.” True #FarmToTable – tweet thisTweet
Small world, but our friend and neighbor, Ari of Revolution Landscape, happened to help Whisknladle Hospitality set up their garden at the Milagro Farm Winery. Ari told me that the owners of the restaurant group are also part owners in the winery. They recently developed a portion of the winery with produce for the restaurants, and brought in Revolution to get them started. He confirmed that the restaurant staff helped plant. So I can confirm that our waiter wasn’t just boasting!
Easy Recipe Recreations and Inspiration
I love getting inspiration for cooking when I dine out. Some restaurant dishes I can only admire and go back for. But others are easy enough to recreate. After eating at Catania, I threw some Kalamata olives in a hot pan with some rosemary from our garden and red pepper flakes. Along with Carpano Bianco on the rocks and Gorgonzola crackers, I enjoyed “aperitivo” watching my kids dip in their kiddie pool.
Above is an example of a restaurant recreation from last month, a burrata, watermelon, cherry and hazelnut salad, inspired by a similar appetizer at Kettner Exchange — another quick post and recipe I only shared on Instagram.
Suite 301, 7863 Girard Ave, San Diego, CA 92037