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La Jolla gets new Italian concept from Whisknladle group

By Troy Johnson | Photography by Paul Body

This is going to be big. An iconic La Jolla space finally comes alive. On Monday, March 16, the Italian coastal concept Catania opens in the complex formerly known as Jack’s. Jack’s embodied the excessive ambition of pre-2008 and the recessive malaise of post-2008. The space has sat empty like an economic scab for years. And, well, now look at it.

Catania is the third concept from Whisknladle Hospitality, lead by restaurateur Arturo Kassel and chef Ryan Johnston (Whisknladle and Prepkitchen were their first two). This group does things well. Pure and simple. For Catania, they were inspired during a two-week trip through Italy.

The 3,750 square-foot space was designed by one of the city’s top architects, Matthew Ellis at Bluemotif (Kettner Exchange, Cowboy Star). Located on the top floor of the La Plaza La Jolla building, it has views of that big blue ocean. Vince Schofield (ex-Boulevard in San Francisco) will be executive chef on site, with a good portion of dishes getting the dry heat/roasted treatment from their 5,000-pound wood-burning oven (affectionately named “Beatrice,” in honor of Dante’s true love.) The menu promises to continue the gourmet trend towards healthier items, with crudo and a big seafood section. The bar will be Italian cocktails and an all-Italian beer selection (except one signature beer, a collaboration with San Diego’s New English Brewing).

More to come on the menu soon. For now, please enjoy the first photos in the known universe of Catania.


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