Bottega Americano is beautiful, however, visiting during lunch has its pros and cons. Pros include being able to see every intricacy the decor has to offer. The cons? Not being able to taste everything the restaurant has to offer. I am in awe of the space and spend a little time wandering around while I wait for my dashing dining companion to arrive. I eye the display case with its ample array of foods available for take out, and relish in the market’s wares.
My friend arrives and we settle at a table with a view of the entire restaurant. He starts with a Negroni while I stick with iced tea.
After deciding together on the course of the day, we begin with some antipasti — plump, sweet Fire Roasted Bell Peppers ($6) with capers, which we layer on crispy slices of toast. I enjoy this.
Marinated Ciliegine Mozzarella ($6) are even better, with roasted garlic, tomato marmellata and a drizzling of saba.
Although I am not usually a big fan of salads, the Butter Lettuce ($10) is rather delicious. It comprises pork guanciale, farmer’s egg, pine nut herb pangrattato, and tangy roasted tomatoes. Definitely a stellar salad.
I choose Pesce del Giorno: which happens to be Grilled Mexican Wild Shrimp ($23) on this day. I do not realize it is another salad thinking it is the fish of the day, so, we end up with two salads. This one is a mix of spinach and frisee, with red onions, purple radish, quinoa, feta, heirloom cherry tomatoes and fennel tossed in a pesto vinaigrette. The shrimp are nicely grilled, but I want a couple more for the price.
My favorite dish of the meal is Mussels ($13) bathed in a gorgeous white wine and garlic herb butter sauce. Calabrian chiles add heat and the broth is hard to resist. I soak the grilled bread into it, but end up asking for a spoon to lap it all up.
I am always interested in trying house-made pastas and so, Agnolotti ($19) is in order, but turns out to be my least favorite of the meal. Sounding far better on paper than in my mouth, ending up far too sweet for my palate from the chestnut and kumquat. Even my friend mentions its sweetness — perhaps not the best combination with ricotta, porcini mushrooms and braised cabbage creating unbalanced flavors which do not meld well together. It is such a shame because the pasta itself is of perfect texture and consistency.
The Chicken Milanese ($16) is decent, coated with an herb pangrattato and fried crispy. A salad, of arugula and blistered cherry tomatoes, is tossed in an oregano vinaigrette and sits on top of the chicken. It is a safe choice if you are not feeling adventurous.
I see Affogato ($7) on the menu and it is one of three desserts I am not able to resist. Vanilla gelato is topped with hazelnut praline and chocolate biscotti. The espresso shot comes separately so you can control how much you want on it. This is one of the best affogatos I’ve eaten in a long time.
My friend, who has even less of a sweet tooth sips happily on his incredibly strong espresso as he watches me devour the affogato.
Bottega Americano has great potential to become one of San Diego’s noteworthy restaurants. and I want to return again at a later date to try its dinner menu. The decor alone has won me over, and I hope the menu will catch up as time goes on.
1195 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101