I always look forward to San Diego Restaurant Week. This biannual celebration of local San Diego eateries begins this Monday, September 25 and runs though October 2. My companion and I were invited to a preview at Solare Ristorante Italiano. I’d been there before for a tequila tasting and dinner and was very excited about a return visit.
Solare is very much a family establishment. Tommy Smerik, mixologist and son of owner/GM Randy Smerik greeted us, and then Randy escorted us to the wine room for dinner. The wine room is literally Solare’s wine cellar, with one table for four set in the back corner. Randy brought my companion some Prosecco, and brought me the first of four wines from Sicily, the 2014 Donnafugata “Anthila” made from the Cattaratto grape. It’s evident right off the bat Randy knows his wines and loves to suggest the perfect wine to go with each course. Our evening began with Zuppa di Pomodoro, made with son Brian’s roasted farm tomato, served with roasted artichokes, burrata cheese and extra virgin olive oil and garnished with edible flowers. We practically licked the bowl clean. They also brought a basket of bread which they bake five times daily, along with olive oil.
We sampled another offering from the Antipasti menu, the Crudo del Giorno con infusione di Uva. If your Italian is a bit rusty, it’s the local catch of the day, in this case Ahi, served with Napa grape infusion and black olives. There was also a bright citrus presence. It was yet another stunning dish.
We sampled two items from the Il Secondo portion of the menu. First was the Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci, hand crafted ravioli filled with cow ricotta and spinach and sautéed with Gorgonzola dolce, braised pearl onions, roasted Sicilian pistachios and mostarda di frutta. My companion is Italian and said it equalled or surpassed anything her grandmother ever made. Randy paired it with 2014 Pietradolce – Etna Rossa made from the Nerello Mascalese grape. Yet another perfect match.
With the first of two Nero D’Avola wines, 2015 Valdibella Respiro, we savored the Fianco di Manzo Glassato, an Angus beef bavette cooked to medium rare perfection, glazed with vino cotto, licorice carrot purée, balsamic cipollini onions and Brussels sprouts with crispy polenta and an Amarone wine reduction. It was a beef lover’s dream.
We finished with an item not on the Restaurant Week menu, Solare’s tiramisu. Not normally a big tiramisu fan, we loved this. Served in a ceramic flower-pot with a rosemary sprig that appeared to grow out of it, it was sublime. The texture was excellent and the cocoa powder dusting perfection. Sous chef Brian Smerik came out of the kitchen to see how we enjoyed our meal. We raved about it and I can’t wait for a return visit.
They offer a two-course tasting lunch for $20 during Restaurant Week and a three-course tasting dinner for $40. There are over 180 restaurants participating in the hyper local event. I’m delighted I was able to experience Solare Ristorante. I’ll definitely return!
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts.