On the almost Mediterranean-feeling north coast of San Diego County, sunny Italian food somehow seems appropriate. Some of the best just off the beach is served in Encinitas at Via Italia Trattoria (569 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Encinitas, 760/479-9757, Mon.–Thurs. and Sun. noon–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. noon–10:30 p.m., $10–25). This Italian-owned and -operated casual restaurant feels like a real trattoria on the coast of Italy.
You can get a budget-friendly yet fabulously delicious thin-crust pizza, a dish of steaming pasta with your choice of traditional sauce, or an upscale seafood entrée. The food is fresh, cooked just right, and delectable. Whatever you order from the large menu, you’ll enjoy eating it in the casual dining room with classic red-and-white-checked tablecloths. Or if you just want a quick drink and an appetizer, take a seat at the bar.
For haute cuisine with an Italian flair, make the drive out to the Four Seasons Aviara and have dinner at Vivace (7100 Four Seasons Pt., Carlsbad, 760/603-3773, Sun.–Thurs. 6–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–10 p.m., $35–50). A perfect restaurant for a romantic night out, Vivace offers California-Italian cuisine in several courses, with a menu that changes nightly and seasonally to take advantage of the freshest local ingredients.
Attentive, knowledgeable servers can help you with both the menu and the wine list, which provides great menu-matching selections from California, Italy, and other wine regions of Europe. As you sip your wine, you can admire the elegant tropical-themed decor throughout the several interconnected dining spaces. (Be sure to look down; the floor is gorgeous!)
Be sure to plan at least an hour and a half so that you can enjoy the whole dining experience, right through dessert and coffee.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition