8273 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, CA 91941
By the East County Eater
September 20, 2009 (La Mesa)--This is a tough job. For instance, how do you choose the best Italian restaurant in East County among so many tasty choices? After considerable (and delectable) research, I’m pleased to reveal my current favorite: Tiramisu Trattoria in La Mesa.
The second you walk in, you feel like an honored guest. Everyone I’ve spoken to tells the tale of how the owner personally welcomed them and came by the table to ask if everything is to their liking. Our experience confirmed the owner’s reputation for not only dishing up fine food, but also warm hospitality.
Being hospitable is an important prerequisite for being a restaurant owner. This is part of the reason one feels so appreciated at Tiramisu Trattoria – each of the owners and chefs owned restaurants of their own in the recent past--and each feels a genuine desire to win our hearts. (Have you been to “La Strata” in the Gas Lamp District Downtown? Or “La Cocina?”) When the restaurant first opened in 2004, each of its three chefs were from different regions of Italy-- each with a different style of cooking and regional ingredients. The trio would hold competitions—and the best preparation of each dish was what wound up being served.
Northern Italy is known for its tomato, basil and rich sauces, the Southern region and Sicilian are famed for their fresh seafood and central cosmopolitan cuisine. The best from each region is featured at Tiramisu Trattoria and the selection is amazing – over two hundred and twenty five entrée specials!
David Ciolo and Gerald Torres took care of us on the day we came to visit. Immediately the whole crew shifted into high gear to present us with a sampling of Tiramisu Trattoria’s best. Each dish was artfully prepared, pleasing both visually and to the palate.
David started us off with two appetizers: Asparagi con Prosciutto, Asparagus spears wrapped in cured Italian Ham (prosciutto) in a gorgonzola Cheese cream sauce, and Pepperone Rosso Ripieno, red bell peppers filled with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto over a bed of sautéed spinach in a garlic cream sauce. Magnifico!
Next, we sampled the Insalata di Spinaci: Baby spinach and arugula tossed with Italian bacon, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms in a warm balsamic vinaigrette topped with shaved parmesan cheese.
Narrowing the vast selection of entrees down proved tough—so we ordered three. Tortino di Melenzane, layered sliced grilled eggplant and ricotta topped with melted mozzarella cheese in a delicate pomodoro sauce, was a visual delight as well as a culinary one.
Scallopine di Vitello Marsala, thinly sliced veal medallions in a mushroom marsalla wine sauce, melted in the mouth—if you’ll pardon the cliché, but it’s truly the best description of this dish.
My favorite, and the most unique dish sampled, was Papperdelle con Zucca e Salsiccia: home-made wide fettucine with mild Italian sausage and butternut squash in a delicate white wine cream sauce. A family friend of the owner brought this dish from Sicily and now it is a popular ‘Special of the Day.”
The portions were generous –leaving us just one challenge: could we make room for dessert?
Unable to resist temptation, we just had to indulge in one of the restaurant’s signature desserts – its namesake Tiramisu Frutti di Bosco, with mascarpone cheese, lady fingers soaked in a berry reduction. (Also savor berry and chocolate tiramisu, which have been sampled on a subsequent visit!)
On this occasion, we also sampled three wines. Our first vintage was Fiano “Carraia” della Sicilia White, made from 100% Fiano grapes – crisp ripe peach, pear and honey flavors with an exotic fruit bouquet—a heady start to our dining experience.
Next we tried a 2004 Super Tuscan, “La Moto” Toscana Red , (with motorcycle on the label), aged in oak, 90% Sangiovese, 10% cabernet. This wine has the classic fruity raspberry of fresh sangiovese, but with the structure of a cabernet sauvignon. As a finishing touch, we savored Italy’s most prestigious wine, a 2002 Brunello di Montalcino “La Velona” Toscana Red--at a great per bottle price of $46.00 dollars.
Located in the heart of La Mesa’s downtown village, Tiramisu Trattoria’s Tuscan warm hues and murals evoking classic Italian scenes create a sense that you’ve stepped into a setting straight out of Italy—a mood accentuated by a Venetian travelogue on the dining room’s sole TV screen.
I highly recommend Tiramisu Trattoria, whether you’re seeking a moderately-priced haven to impress your special someone—or take a group of friends and sample an even broader array of creative and delicious offerings. If you’re looking for the most extensive selection of authentic Italian cuisine in East County, Tiramisu Trattoria is truly buenissimo.