Eggplant Parmesan @ Cesarina
For the next issue I’m reviewing Cesarina, the from-scratch pasta restaurant in Point Loma/OB that’s taken the area by storm. The husband and wife duo first turned the concept into a farmers market staple before partnering with two fresh-from-Italy friends for the brick-and-mortar in Loma Portal. It’s a tough location, a real no-man’s land. But it’s always packed because their pasta station (pastificio in Italian) cranks out some of the better from-scratch carbs in town. But one non-pasta dish stood out on my second visit—this eggplant parmesan, which arrives in a scorching terra cotta bowl where the sauce is sizzling and bubbling. It’s a wet one (many aficionados will say this is a crime), but it’s delicious, showcasing chef Patrick Money’s talent for the hardest and simplest art: a fresh, flavorful, basic tomato sauce.
4161 Voltaire St., Point Loma
OB Noodle House Wings @ The Holding Company
It's not every day that O.B. gets a three-story, $4.5 million restaurant on its main drag. That may be cause for concern that San Diego’s funkiest, crunchiest beach neighborhood is undergoing the big G (gentrification), and honestly the town is. But The Holding Company is a local success story, the biggest project to date from the Yeng family of O.B. Noodle House fame. The brothers grew up in O.B. working for at their parents’ O.B. Donuts. They invested in the kitchen here, hiring exec chef Ryan Ahrens, formerly of high-end chophouse, Stake. I’ll work my way through the whole menu soon, but a recent visit reminded me how good those original O.B. Noodle House wings are. Spicy, crispy, and moist, they’re marinated in a peanut butter-chile sauce and then caramelized with garlic and scallions before tossing in a hot wok with garlic sugar-pepper rub. Best wings in town.
5046 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach
The Snacks @ Kaneh Co.
Last year when I wrote a cover story about the newly legal cannabis industry in San Diego, someone emailed me to say, "Hey, did you know one of the country’s best pastry chefs is doing her own brand of cannabis snacks?" I emailed that chef to focus on her work. She said (I’m improving the quote), "Thanks, Troy! And, nope." Cannabis was still new then, a lot of people still had the stigma. Being tied to the industry might hurt her potential career opportunities with restaurants. But now Rachel King has embraced her role in the industry as chef-partner of Kaneh Co., and the cannabis world is better off for having snacks created by a pastry chef Food & Wine once nominated as one of the country’s "Best New Pastry Chefs." I don’t use cannabis. Not for any job-related reason. It just makes me weird. But I tried her "non-medicated" versions of her brownies and her chile-mango jellies, and they’re delicious. Cooking with weed used to just result in food that tasted like bong water. Not anymore. If cannabis works for you, search them out.