When Croce’s Restaurant moved from the Gaslamp Quarter to Park West, I was sad. Croce’s started the Gaslamp. They were one of the first restaurants to take a chance on the now wildly successful downtown revitalization. Their corner location was perfect for showcasing many local bands and musicians, including Ingrid Croce’s son AJ.
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.
For dessert we really appreciated that they offered a gluten-free option for my husband who has sensitivities. He enjoyed a Vanilla Lavender Honey Crème Brûlée. I had a dessert from their regular menu (which they also will do for you). It was a most generous serving of warm Ginger Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream and a large dollop of fresh whipped cream, sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with caramel sauce. Need I say more?
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.
Restaurant Week will be filled with many delights including wine flights, specialty cocktails, live music and nightly special events. It is so special to have a restaurant like Croce’s in San Diego. A restaurant that features and appreciates live music and makes it non-invasive for patrons to enjoy their conversation and listen to music at the same time. Thank you Ingrid Croce and Jimmy Rock for giving San Diego this gem.