By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Little Italy’s culinary explosion continues with the recent opening of Pan Bon (“good bread”) by sibling bakers Luciano and Giancarlo Anselmi.
The brothers also own a bread shop in Verona, Italy, although their U.S. venture on the ground floor of Ariel Suites is a massive 10,000-square-foot emporium of gorgeous confections, deli specialties and prepared foods reminiscent of the displays you’d find at indoor markets throughout Europe.
The space doubles as a stylish restaurant, with ample seating to enjoy salads, pizzas, sandwiches, artisan cheeses and charcuterie. Pastries and breads are made daily, with the latter using wild yeast imported from Italy. There’s also lasagna and other pasta classics created onsite. 1450 Kettner Blvd., 619-373-5780.
Another newcomer that opened a few blocks north is The Cheese Store, a bistro launched by farmers-market vendors Aaron Flores and his wife Marci. In addition to carrying more than 65 different artisan curds from California and Europe, the couple sells a variety of small-batch pantry goods produced by local vendors such as jams, honey and condiments. They also carry high-end charcuterie, including chili-fennel sausage crafted by Tender Greens Chef Pete Balistreri. 1980 Kettner Blvd., 619-544-0500.
Felines, java and pastries appear under one roof at the new Cat Café, a first for San Diego where cat lovers can interact or adopt cats while washing down Danishes and muffins with coffee drinks from Café Virtuoso and West Coast Coffee Roasters.
“I got the inspiration of doing this after hearing about the success of a cat café in Paris,” says owner Tony Wang, who formed a partnership with the San Diego Humane Society. “Some people are just dropping in for the coffee on their way to work,” he added. Located in the East Village, the café features a barista and a cat playpen. It is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. 472 Third Ave., 619-786-2289.
A third series of “taco fights” at The Blind Burro kicks off from 7 to 9 p.m., February 10 and continues every Tuesday evening through March 3. The matches involve two different chefs each week from local restaurants who are required to use an ingredient voted by the public on Blind Burro’s Facebook page. The series concludes with winners from each battle squaring off for the championship title. Attendees can sample the dueling tacos for $9 during any of the competitions while taking advantage of various drink specials. Admission is free. 639 J St., 619-795-7880.
Executive Chef Todd Renner has designed the first-ever breakfast menu for Tender Greens, available exclusively at the restaurant’s Downtown location. Complimenting various eggs scrambles, breakfast sandwiches and house-cured ham is Renner’s zippy, fermented hot sauces made with locally grown chilies. 110 W. Broadway, 619-795-2353.
From its humble beginnings in 1981, when Don Arnulfo Contreras and his wife Maria Ines Curiel opened a restaurant in Spring Valley and tailored it to Mexican immigrants, the family legacy endures with a newly opened Downtown location of Karina’s Mexican Seafood. Custom murals, colorful accents and tequila galore set a festive atmosphere for established dishes such as octopus cocktail, jumbo stuffed clams and whole grilled fish that come with a wide choice of house-made sauces. 925 B St., 619-546-7667.
The long-vacated Palm restaurant at Sixth and J streets will spring back to life with the March 18 opening of Water Grill San Diego, a 300-seat seafood restaurant from King’s Seafood Company, which also operates Lou & Mickey’s in the Gaslamp District. Like its flagship “grill” in Los Angeles, the menu will spotlight Pacific and Atlantic catches such as Santa Barbara prawns, wild Eastern scallops and an extensive selection of fresh oysters and fish. Leather booths and nautical décor will fill in the two-level space. 615 J St., watergrill.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.