So, it was a dark day for us when Ingrid and husband Jimmy Rock announced they were leaving the Gaslamp. Turns out I need not have worried. Yes, they lost the foot traffic at the old place but what they gained by moving uptown to 5th Avenue, just west of Balboa Park, more than makes up for the quaintness of the Gaslamp. The restaurant is beautifully appointed with a majestic, dark wooden bar that runs half the length of the building. Seating is intimate with tables and banquettes. All of the chairs are cushioned and comfortable. Eclectic chandeliers light different vignettes. All in all, it is warm and inviting, yet elegant and approachable.
What I loved about it was that they feature live music every night. The sound in the restaurant is perfect: you can hear the music from your table or booth, enjoy the musicians, yet still it is not too loud for a private conversation, without having to talk over the music. Ingrid Croce is the consummate hostess. She always welcomes you with a smile and a warm greeting. Chef Anthony Simpson has created a diverse menu for Restaurant Week, January 17 – 24. A $40 prix fixe menu will have many options, not the usual two or three that other restaurants offer.
For my appetizer I chose the Wedge Salad with gorgonzola, bacon and heirloom cherry tomatoes. And who would have thought that it would pair well with my Nebbiolo from the Guadalupe Valley in Baja Mexico, but it did! I had an easy time choosing from the seven entrée options. I enjoyed the Bordeaux Braised Short Ribs with White Cheddar Mac and Cheese, Braised Chard and a Cipollini or wild onion (which I learned is a bittersweet bulb of the grape hyacinth and looks like a small onion). My husband chose what we deemed the hit of the evening: Maple Brined Duroc Pork Chop with Gruyere-Fennel Gratin and a fire roasted tomato. He paired it with an Italian Scaglione wine which was a Barbera and Nebbiolo blend.
Sommelier Michael Simpson is very knowledgeable and helpful in pairing different wines for appetizers and main courses. I enjoyed Croce’s extensive wine by the glass menu, allowing you to taste a variety of wines, if you don’t want to order a bottle. And here’s a little known fact, Croce’s also can sell bottles or cases of wine to you.