San Diego restaurant review: Lupi

By Norman Greene

Norman Greene

Norman Greene

SAN DIEGO –It’s a strange name for a restaurant and the parking could be a little more convenient, but the food was delicious, the wine list interesting and the prices quite good.  I liked our friendly, efficient service and the relaxed atmosphere at Lupi on La Jolla Boulevard in the Bird Rock area.

Last Sunday was a warm evening, when we met our friends Stephanie and Steve Steinberg after a rather last minute change of plans.  Our original idea was to have a 5:30 picnic on the grass along the Pacific behind the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art.  Stephanie was making all the arrangements when Steve spooked her with fears that it might be too windy or too grey for a picnic…even though the temperatures were in the low 90’s.

So it was off to one of their favorite eateries, Lupi.  That’s all I could read on the sign above their outdoor patio where there was a family with three sobbing children.  In point of fact, the restaurant’s full name is Lupi Vino Cucina Bar and we had our choice of inside tables by the windows.

Lupi bills itself as a Roman Trattoria.  Its Spartan interior is divided into two dining areas with a full bar near the rear on the right hand portion.  This particular Sunday evening, there wasn’t a crowd with which to contend.  It was almost as though we had a private dining room to ourselves and the four of us, all being “talkers,”  loved it.

The bill of fare designed by co-owner/chef Luigi Tonatore was principally Italian, Roman influenced cuisine that was generous, creative and, as I said, delicious.  I had an excellent appetizer of  Melanzana Cardinale or panko breaded baked eggplant topped with a slice of rich red tomato and buffalo mozzarella and half submerged in a tasty Marinara sauce.  Our two ladies were content with Caesar salads and Steve had the freshly made Zuppa Del Giorno– a homemade lentil soup.  Not wanting to spoil our appetites for the main courses, the portions were sized so as to be not too filling.

The listed main courses, a mixture of pastas, meat, seafood and pizza,  was very tempting.  I decided on the ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach and lentils.  It was cooked and served with an interesting white wine sauce that was wonderful.  I was tempted by the one veal dish (Scalloppine Pizzailoa) on the menu, but my wife had served her version of breaded veal the night before at home.  No sense overdoing a good thing.  Both our dates had seafood dishes with freshly made pasta and Steve’s meal was devoured so quickly that I can’t remember exactly what it was, except that he said he loved it.

Being a wine connoisseur with a home in Tuscany, Steve selected a smooth Super Tuscan wine that was very drinkable and easy on our wallets…so easy, that we consumed two bottles.  I dimly recall Steve lecturing on which side of the vineyard the grapes were grown and the chemistry and politics involved with the blending of the wine, but as I remember it there were two bottles and only four of us consumers at the table.

We look forward to our next meal at Lupi and you could become regulars if you try it too.

Greene is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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