By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor Downtown News
Bolillo: a type of savory bread, a variation of the baguette, traditionally made in Mexico. It has a crusty exterior and soft white bread center.
Eight months ago, Stefano Pezzotti opened up Bolillos Tortas on 4th Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. Tucked away along a storefront located directly across the street from The Horton Grand Theater, Bolillos is a slice of Mexican heaven.
Pezzotti has created a smart and snazzy place and has a smart, snazzy website to match. Born in Mexico City, Stefano spent the last 10 years running restaurants in Cancun before coming to San Diego to be closer to his mother-in-law. The restaurant he built is at once rustic and contemporary, much like the bread he named it after.
Bolillos are crusty, oval bread-rolls, often used to make tortas — a Mexican sandwich. Some of Pezzotti’s rolls are made locally, but his premiere torta rolls are shipped in daily from Guadalajara. Along with the standard additions of tomato, lettuce and cheese, most of these tortas also have a spread of homemade refried beans.
“Tortas are as popular in Mexico as tacos,” Stefano said. “No one has respected the torta the way we do.”
But Bolillos serves up much more than just a Mexican sandwich. Stefano aims to give each customer a slice of culture his culture along with that sandwich. After all, although San Diego is just steps away from Baja California, it is different in many ways from its mainland Mexican counterpart, so on every visit – whether it be to the 4th Avenue address or their website – Bolillos will make sure you have a taste of his rich Mexican culture.
“Be fed physically, spiritually and intellectually,” the Bolillos website says. “We seek to combine the best favors of a diverse country and deliver them in a singular experience that teaches your mouth about the flavors, your mind about the culture and your eyes about the beauty of Mexico.”
They even have a “proverb game” on the website, where visitors are encouraged to match proverbs with the Spanish translation with a chance to win a free torta. Inside the eatery, a sweeping mural adorns half of one wall in the dining area, offering bright and colorful depictions of, as Pezzotti reports, “iconic elements of the Mexican culture, gastronomy and geography.”
Pezzotti chose the Fourth Avenue location because of its “exposure to many segments of the market.” Indeed the Gaslamp is a vast cross-section of nightclubbers, convention attendees, sports enthusiasts, theater-goers, etc. With 30 minutes of free street parking all day long nearby, it is the perfect lunch and early dinner spot.
In addition to the 14 different tortas on the menu, each comes with a side of your choice and a bacon-wrapped, mozzarella-stuffed jalapeno pepper. All but one can be held by your hands — the torta ahogada (which literally means “drowned sandwich”) is submerged in a bowl of chili-based sauce.
Of course they have your staple soups and salads, but even ordinary corn on the cob has something extra at Bolillos, served up on the end of a stick and is covered in mayo, cheese and chili powder.
“Everything we cook here is from scratch,” Pezzotti said.
Aside from sandwiches that resemble no other in the region, there are two other things that further set them apart — their focus on late night dinners and their unique delivery policies. On Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights they are open until 3 a.m. and they deliver to a large area until 11 p.m. every night. That delivery area includes the Gaslamp, all of Downtown and even Little Italy, and your food will often be delivered on a trike.
Their three homemade salsas, each made with combinations of fresh peppers, roasted chilis, tomatillo and cactus, are so popular, he is planning to start selling his chipotle blend. Inspired by the recipe of a childhood friend’s mom, Pezzotti uses Mexican candy to put a slight twist on this spicy sauce.
Happy with his success in America’s Finest City thus far, Pezzotti already has plans to open a second store in November — one year after his debut — in University Town Center, where he will surely continue feeding his customers “physically, spiritually, and intellectually.”
For more information, or to take the “proverb quiz,” visit their website at bolillostortas.com or call 619.255.6268.