By the East County Eater
July 23, 2009 (La Mesa) – “When we started out a year ago, they said this couldn’t be done,” La Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Mary England told a hungry crowd at the La Mesa Community Center. The Chamber’s first annual “Taste of La Mesa” event drew more than 350 visitors, 25 restaurants and over two dozen additional vendors.
England praised Gabe Giordano, owner of Gio Bistro Wine Bar, title sponsor of the event. While seated next to him on a flight to Sacramento, England shared her dream of hosting an event for the public to sample fare from East County eateries. “He handed me a thousand dollars cash and said `Let’s make this happen,’” she recalled.
Gio’s served up its signature sangria, along with succulent lamb chops and chicken skewers. Elsewhere around the room, restaurants from La Mesa and neighboring communities offered up a wide range of dishes.
Guests savored seafood lasagna, stuffed mushrooms and artichoke-spinach pizza at Nonno’s Pizza. “We have our liquor license now and we’ve just added imported wines, “ the owner disclosed.
Feasting proved an international affair, with hearty Irish offerings from Hooley’s Irish Pub & Grill, Italian from Tiramisu Trattoria, and Olive Garden, Chinese and Thai dishes from Chopsticks (including a tasty tofu dish), South-of-the-border specialties from La Casa Blanca, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, plus American fare from Lunch Box Café & Deli and Lemon Grove’s Antique Row Café.
Barbecue aficionados found plenty to please their palettes at Black Jack International BBQ, Gib’s Ribs, and West Coast BBQ and Catering. Other participating restaurants and food vendors included Brigantine Restaurant, Sheraton Hotel Mission Valley, Continental Catering, Edible Arrangements, Tarantino Gourmet Sausages, Bella’s Finest, and Cali Comfort Restaurant and Sports Bar.
As finishing touches to this delicious evening, those with a sweet tooth lined up for pie at Marie Callendar’s, luscious cakes from Costco and a bacon-topped chocolate cake from Riviera Supper Club.
One suggestion for next year – a pitcher of ice water at each table and some glasses would be nice additions. I’d gladly pay more for a ticket on a warm summer’s eve not to have to stand in line for a cold drink after sampling spicy salsa!
Music, wine tasting, and a drawing for some wonderful prizes rounded out the evening, all for just $20 ($25 at the door). There were so many great food vendors, I couldn’t try them all--so I’m looking forward to an encore tasting event next year!