“Get the branzino,” my server says with confidence. “It was our favorite during the preview tastings.”
I’d had my eye on the cappellacci ragú di coda, dumplings stuffed with oxtail and smothered in a hearty ragú. But not many places offer whole roasted sea bass, much less serve a decent iteration of it, so I figured, hey, when in Rome… (sorry, I couldn’t help it). I wasn’t disappointed—lemony, garlicky, and perfectly prepared, it was a highlight of the meal, paired with roasted carrots and broccoli and washed down with a cold Peroni.
It was soft opening night at Roman Wolves, the Roman-inspired restaurant from restaurateur Nino Cusimano. The eatery officially opens today at 1980 Kettner Boulevard in the Broadstone building. Cusimano, who also operates Rusticucina in Hillcrest, says he hopes to bring Rome’s cultural and culinary legacies to Little Italy’s upscale dining scene, offering traditional Roman pastas like carbonara, cacio e pepe, and amatriciana. Chef Enrico de Santis incorporates classic ingredients such as artichokes, lamb, and oxtail across the menu, which also includes pinsas (Roman-style folded pizzas), plenty of wine and beer, and updated Italian cocktails like spritzes, negronis, and a Roman twist on an old fashioned.
“For anyone who’s traveled to Rome or has Rome on their bucket list, the menu and atmosphere at Roman Wolves will take them there,” Cusimano promises. “It’s authentic, but the chef has added his own take on every dish, and we have several unique items, like the pinsas, that you won’t find everywhere else.”
I’d never heard of pinsas, but my server described them as a lighter, airier take than chewier and more dense Neapolitan-style crusts. “Think of it as almost a puff pastry with toppings piled on top, then folded in half and cut into slices to share,” she explained.
My dining companion and I opted for the pinsa margherita to keep things light at the start of a long meal. In hindsight, I wish we’d tried the pinsa la mortazza with mortadella, ricotta, and pistachio—the margherita was indeed light, but could have used a heavier hand on the seasoning and perhaps a splash of balsamic. But, at the very least, the new-to-me dish proved to be a fun exploration of Roman cuisine.
Cassandra Builer of Huntress Decor curated the interior of Roman Wolves, which seats 20 guests at the bar, 60 in the main dining room, 25 on the outside patio, and up to 30 in a private dining room. Frilly and colorful light fixtures hang above gold-edged marbled tables surrounded by replicas of worn brick and plaster à la an ancient Roman street. Local artist Kristen Morgan painted a mural of Rome’s famous Trevi Fountain on one wall, and a long, burnt-orange couch stretches along the window side of the dining room, a velvety wave undulating across the space. It’s an eclectic design, and I quite like the gothic black tapers on each table.
Hours are Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; and Sunday, noon to to 10 p.m. Happy hour will run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
San Diego Restaurant News & Food Events
Marisi Hosts the Friends of James Beard Dinner
The James Beard Foundation, the New York–based nonprofit dedicated to uplifting American food people, is coming to Marisi for the Friends of James Beard Dinner on March 20. The foundation’s awards recognizing chefs, hospitality workers, media, and more are arguably the most prestigious food-related accolades in the world, and this is the first Friends dinner to hit San Diego since 2013. The five-course meal, spearheaded by Marisi executive chef Cameron Ingle, will feature local and seasonal plates alongside wine and cocktail pairings. Tickets are $350 (reservations required).
San Diego’s first non-alcoholic bar is coming to San Diego. Good News, a woman-owned and LGBT-friendly space, has yet to announce a location or timeframe, but we’ll be keeping an eye on it and sharing future announcements here.
Happy eighth birthday to Holy Matcha! On Saturday, March 9, San Diego’s first matcha cafe will celebrate with yet-to-be announced specials and treats. Whatever they are, I’m certain they’ll be cute af (and probably millennial pink).
There is no way to fill the pint-sized hole Bagby Beer Company left behind in Oceanside. (I even named them one of the best breweries of 2023, so pray for me during this difficult time.) Luckily, it’s not so much “goodbye” as it is “see you later,” as Orange County–based Green Cheek Beer plans to revamp and reopen its sprawling space in early March. Former owner and brewer Jeff Bagby will remain on staff, so it seems to be more of a transition than departure. Happy news for all thirsty beer fans!