A promise for authentic Italian food always catches my interest from the get, and Civico 1845 in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood knows just how to hit the spot.
Little Italy in and of itself is known for the food choices within the neighborhood, and sometimes the competition is fierce. While the service is friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming, Civico 1845 sets itself apart by also offering a selection of vegan options on its menu.
The key word here is “authenticity,” and everything that comes out of Civico 1845 is about as authentic as it gets with Italian cuisine. Take a small trip to Italy while you’re here and enjoy some of the best food, wine, and service in town.
The family focus starts behind the scenes, and Civico 1845 was opened up by brothers Dario and Pietro Gallo.
While Dario serves as General Manager, Pietro acts as the Executive Chef. Both born and raised in Cosenza, Italy, Dario initially moved to Milan at 18 to study Economics and Management at the University of Milano - Bicocca.
Pietro, who grew up with a love of cooking, learned from their mother. On their website, he said, “Our mother used to cook tomatoes for three hours to get the taste just right. That is the standard we desire to live up to.” Before coming to San Diego, Pietro attended University Niccolò Cusano to study economics.
The brothers Gallo paid San Diego a visit in 2013 when the vision for Civico 1845 came into focus. Within a year, they opened in the heart of Little Italy. Throughout the years, they’ve maintained their goal to bring the most authentic and contemporary Italian experience around. This begins with the food but weaves into the service, wine, and cocktails as well.
Dario also said he hopes their guests feel like they’re dining in the family’s home in Italy and experiencing their family’s traditions and home cooking.
Civico 1845 gets to own the status of offering the first Italian-vegan menu in the United States. Chef Pietro created the dishes with inspiration from their Italian heritage mixed with modern cooking techniques. The vegan menu has been a beloved experience since 2015.
The restaurant believes in sustainability, from the food down to the design. The menu focuses on locally grown and seasonal ingredients. In addition, the bar and dining areas were created with reclaimed, natural materials.
At that, nothing goes to waste at Civico 1845.
Chef Pietro uses his passion for veganism and healthy living behind both the vegan and gluten-free menus and works to make sure these items are treated with the same care as the rest of the menu.
Everything about Civico 1845 was an awesome experience, from the check-in for the reservation to the signing of the check.
Upon sitting, a busser brings water and a bag of bread to the table. The bread served in a brown paper bag is authentic to Italy, and the bread itself must have been baked in heaven before it hit the table. Lightly buttered, it fit really well with the pesto olive oil dipping sauce.
The mood in the restaurant is very calm, and dim lighting makes for a romantic atmosphere. The waitress was knowledgeable and kind and recommended the La Trappola di Venere to drink. This tequila drink comes with Giffard Elderflower liqueur, passion syrup, and lime juice. It was a sweet drink and went down quick, but it was delicious all the same.
On the Antipasti appetizers, we decided to try the Impepata di Cozze with local Carlsbad mussels, a white wine sauce with cherry tomatoes, and crostini. The mussels were definitely fresh, and if they were any more than a day or two old, I would have been surprised. The sauce had the tiniest kick to it, but the buttery flavor was delectable and the mussels themselves were sizable and hearty.
In the Primi Piatti entrees section, we tried the Pasta al Forno with rigatoni, mozzarella, beef ragout, Italian sausage and parmigiano reggiano. I loved this, and the flavors all really balanced each other out. Everything in the meat, pasta, and sauce departments were all well-proportioned and created a nice flavor palette that complimented itself really well.
We had to try some of the vegan food, and under the Primi e Secondi section of that side of the menu, we went for the Linguine al Verde. This linguini pasta had Italian pesto, marinated red beets, lemon zest, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes. This was definitely a highlight of the menu, and Civico 1845 proves they can do vegan Italian justice.
I really eyed the tiramisu to finish off the meal, but I was spent after all of the food. This hearty meal definitely hit the spot and took care of my appetite, and standing at six and a half feet tall, that’s not always an easy thing to do.
Little Italy is one of the busiest areas in downtown, especially when it comes to food. If you’re coming during rush hour, make sure you give yourself some extra time to find parking. Although metered street parking is available, larger paid lots nearby may prove to be a better choice.
The restaurant is open daily at 4 pm for dinner. Monday-Thursday, they close at 9:30 pm. They stay open until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and close early at 9 pm on Sundays.
They are also open for lunch Thursday-Monday from 12-4 pm.
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