Tucked inside of San Diego's Mission Hills lies an Italian-owned farm-to-table eatery known as the Farmer's Bottega. Located on the main strip on Washington Avenue, you may miss it if you blink as you walk on by, but if you're already window shopping, the decor is sure to catch your eye.
Set up with a nice, rustic feel that includes brick walls and dim Edison bulb lighting, the Farmer's Bottega breathes its sustainable energy from the moment you open the door. Outside of feeling like you're in a comfortable, homey barn, there's also an antique sewing machine out on display, as well as a 40-year-old table that was recovered from the ocean.
There's also a back patio that hosts a wonderful array of plants that make you feel like you've been transported directly onto a farm. Additionally, whether you've chosen brunch, lunch, or dinner, you may have a hard time finding yourself a table, so be sure to book your reservation in advance.
The Farmer's Bottega originally opened in 2014 by Executive Chef Alberto Morreale. Having grown up near Palermo, Sicily, Chef Morreale discovered his love for cooking at the age of 14. From there, he went off to the Culinary School of Milan and wound up with apprenticeships in Northern Italy at the Matahari Bistro and the Vincenzo Trattoria in Bergamo.
Morreale migrated out to San Diego in 1995, where he began as a sous chef at Osteria Panevino. He eventually wound up opening four more restaurants through the same company and ultimately became a corporate chef in Las Vegas. On top of that, he also became the executive chef in San Diego's La Focaccia Gourmet Pizza and Exotic Salads.
All of that passion, education, and experience came together to create the Farmer's Bottega in Mission Hills, where the employees remain faithful to the brand, and everybody cares about what they're doing and where the food comes from. The focus remains on sustainable ingredients that are locally sourced as often as possible, which translates into a freshness you can taste with every bite.
Morreale remains vigilant about keeping things organic and even cooks with his family using vegetables they grow in their own garden. For the Bottega, they've paired up with various distributors across the Southern California region to provide the best taste possible. One of their main sources of food comes from Stehly Farms, a multi-generation family farm founded in the 1920's in Valley Center, CA.
Their eggs on the brunch side come from Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch in Ramona, with the regular bread hailing from Bread and Cie in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood and gluten-free options from Diana's out in Escondido. Solo Foods in Wilmington, CA, provides the bulk of their meat and allows them to keep their focus on specialty produce.
The organic flavors dance across the menu in various options like the Pecan-Crusted Chicken Sandwich and the Bottega Stack, with an array of their finest sustainable products coming in full force with scrambled eggs, black beans, scallions, Anaheim chilies, jack cheese, fried corn tortillas, Verde and Roja salsas, and Oaxaca cream.
There's also a carefully curated wine menu that showcases highlights from California, New Zealand, France, and Italy. The bulk of their wine list (including all of the whites) are offered in both glass and bottle form, and there's a glass that's perfect to pair with any meal.
It's easy to feel right at home here in the Bottega.
I opted to head in for brunch in the early afternoon. I sat at the bar since the restaurant itself was so crowded, but the bartender was also serving the restaurant and handling a lot of tasks at the same time.
I had a hard time deciding on what to order since everything looked so good, and the menu comes stocked with plenty of options. The brunch section is split up into Fruits & Grains, Omelets & Frittatas, French Toast & Pancakes, Benedict's, and Egg Specialties, with the lunch side covering Salads, Flatbreads, Sides, Sandwiches & Entrees.
I wound up going for the Meatloaf Hash, and I couldn't have been happier with my choice. Accompanied with three eggs any style (I went with the fluffiest scrambled eggs I've ever had in my life), housemade meatloaf, spinach, potatoes, pesto, and toast, this meal was a hit from the first taste. I wasn't even aware spinach could taste so good, and every bite of the meatloaf melted in my mouth. Usually, I inhale my food because I'm six and a half feet tall with a tornado for a stomach. Here, I actually forced myself to slow down and really taste all of the flavors. I've had the fortune of working on farms a time or two in my past, and this was the freshest meal I've had since the last time I was on a farm six years ago.
Outside of the hash, I also opted for the housemade Sangria with fresh fruit toppings. Having also bartended a time or two in my day, I know how garnishes for drinks can be a little off sometimes, but the blackberries and orange skewered on top may as well have been picked an hour before they hit my drink (and who knows, maybe they were). The drink itself was also smooth and hit the right spot, and acted as a great addition to the meatloaf.
Although I joined the Bottega for lunch, on the dinner side of things, the meatballs remain one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Be sure to give those a go and pair it with one of their red blends for an out-of-this-world meal you're sure to remember.
Parking may be a bit hard to come by, but it's well worth the look for a metered space or a small lot nearby to come in for a meal. Reservations are not required, although they are recommended.
They're open daily for brunch from 8 am-2 pm and for dinner from 4-9 pm.
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