A Favorite Neighborhood Italian Restaurant – La Mesa Courier
By ROBIN DOHRN-SIMPSON
Every neighborhood needs its own authentic Italian restaurant. One who is laid back, warm and inviting. The one that is not too big and not expensive. One where you can sit 20 minutes after having had the idea to go. If you live in La Mesa you are in luck, because it is all in Cucina Basilico.
At the turn of this century, Francesca and Danilo moved to San Diego from Milan, Italy. Their passion for food and hospitality inspired them to start a catering business. They returned to Italy on and off for years to study the traditional cuisine of northern Italy.
Once ready to commit, they sought out a part of the city lacking in Italian flavors, and La Mesa was the lucky recipient of their quest.
At Cucina Basilico, everything is homemade every day, from scratch, including four kinds of pasta and bread.
Unique appetizers that catch the eye are the Carciofi Romani, which are long-stemmed artichoke hearts with herbs in olive oil; or Bruschetta Colorata, a homemade Piadina bread with goat cheese and roasted peppers.
If you are a prosciutto fan, their Prosciutto Crudo Parma is a must. At 18 months old, this imported delicacy melts in your mouth.
For your first class, choose your pasta, which is all homemade – four kinds of regular pasta and one gluten-free. Then choose your sauce from a wide choice, such as Parmesan and pecorino pesto, ragu ‘alla bolognaise and marinara (the two family recipes), garlic and chilli flake arrabbiata. Other choices include Polpette, a family recipe with meatballs in a marinara sauce; or Pantera Rosa, which is a marinara sauce with a little cream and pancetta (Italian bacon). The vodka sauce with smoked salmon, cream and marinara looks amazing, as does the Norcina, which has a light cream sauce with mild Italian sausage and onions. Finally, add chicken, shrimp, mushrooms or sausage.
The second can be Italian chicken. The pollos include Amongagiana, Lemon and Capers or Panna e Funghi, in a light porcini cream. The other category is fish. Salmone Livornese is a fillet of wild salmon sautÃ©ed in cherry tomatoes, olives and capers. Cioppino is another house specialty, a seafood soup with clams, shrimp, salmon, squid and wild white fish.
If you like to experiment with Italian wines, they have a variety of imported wines to pair with different foods. You can also buy a bottle of wine to take away.
Savor these true Italian flavors for lunch or dinner. Reservations are strongly recommended for Friday and Saturday evenings.
– Robin Dohrn-Simpson is a local freelance food and travel writer. Contact her at www.robindohrnsimpson.com.