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SD Food News: March 20–24

The latest in food and drink happenings around town this week


The Mains

Italian Restaurant and Market Opens at the UTC Mall

“Pazza” means crazy in Italian. It’s also the name of a new Italian outpost at the UTC mall in La Jolla. Vanessa Uteau, owner of Pazza Market and Cucina, gave the eatery this touch-in-cheek moniker after her food industry buddies called her “crazy” for conjuring a new idea for a restaurant.

Uteau had recently shuttered both locations of her health food spot, Lean and Green, during the pandemic. But she was determined to open another restaurant that could work in San Diego. “I don’t feel that crazy anymore. I feel good,” she reflects. “It was a real challenge. It took a lot of energy. I went through some dark phases at some points. I’m so glad I persevered.”

Pazza Market and Cucina is both a full-service restaurant and a market. Uteau brought in executive chef Patrick Money—formerly of vegan-friendly Italian joint Cesarina—as well as a Sicilian pizza chef and a Sicilian baker to take the reins in the kitchen and craft Italian menu items, all of which are made in-house, including their pastas, sauces, and doughs. Uteau recommends the pazzarella, a white pizza (cooked in their wood-fired pizza oven) with prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, and arugula, and the pappardelle al funghi, a comforting pasta dish served with a creamy mushroom sauce. The market features quick-grab Italian goods like Pazza’s sauces and ready-made lasagna, plus imported biodynamic and organic wines.

Chula Vista Mexican Corn Company Moves in with a Famous Taco Shop

Maybe you happily hummed along when the Corn Kid song was all over the internet. Maybe you couldn’t wait to shake the jingle out of your head. Either way, anyone who’s ever bitten into an ear of elote—nutty, slightly charred, sprinkled with cotija and lime juice—gets what the tyke was going on about. Perhaps there isn’t a more beautiful thing.



And diners at Las Ahumaderas’ Chula Vista location are now able to add the treat to their order. After operating from a food truck and converted shipping containers for the last two years in Chula Vista, Mexican corn vendor Hellote is moving just two miles down the road to a shared space with the well-known Tijuana taco company.

“This is the opportunity I was waiting for,” says Tony Haro, owner of Hellote. The move gives him the chance to showcase his fresh, roasted corn (topped with classic elote seasonings or spicy hot Cheetos) alongside authentic TJ tacos—and is the first step toward a future of pairing up with local taco joints. Hellote is currently in the midst of a soft opening at the Las Ahumaderas space, with an official opening slated for the first week of April.

New Brewery Takes Over the Former Latchkey Brewing Space in Middletown

Rhett Terrebonne was raised in Hawaii and learned the ins and outs of making beer while working at Maui Brewing Co. alongside owner Garrett Moreno. Rhett’s early brushes with brewing prompted a dream to someday launch his own venture with a lineup of ales inspired by the islands.

Twenty years later, Rhett founded Niuhi Brewing Co., a brewhouse and taproom touching down in the former Latchkey Brewing space at the Mission Brewery Plaza. While the business does not have an official opening date just yet, Rhett plans to launch with 10 to 15 beers on tap. At the moment, he’s concocting a hazy fruit-based IPA called The P.O.G., with notes of passion fruit, orange, and guava, and an imperial IPA brewed with spruce tips to give the beer what he describes as a “nutty, piney flavor.”

Looking ahead, Rhett already has his sights on renovating shipping containers into pop-up breweries around the county and eventually opening a restaurant equipped with a tasting room.



Quick Bites

GBOD Group (which has been on a pretty significant ascent with Meze Greek Fusion, El Chingon, Prohibition, and Havana 1920) has taken over two of Little Italy’s most respected Italian restaurants: Bencotto and Monello, the modern Milanese-style, from-scratch pasta spots run by husband-and-wife team Guido and Valentina DiPietri. When it arrived in 2008, Bencotto was crucial to the new swing of modern Italian in Little Italy, and it’s still fantastic.

Flying Pig Pub + Kitchen has taken over the space next door and is building the Swine Wine Bottle Shop, where they’ll sell vino by the bottle and the glass. Read the full story here.

Rosemarie’s, a pop-up burger truck that’s been serving ambitious Wagyu sliders to the crowd at Bay Park’s Harland Brewing, has just secured their first brick-and-mortar. They’ll take over Now Sushi’s former spot in Pacific Beach with an April opening. Try The Classic (Wagyu, onion confit, jack cheese, Kewpie mayo, special sauce) and the We Have Eggplant (fried eggplant, Korean BBQ sauce, pickled cabbage, Kewpie).

Ranch 45 is hosting a wine dinner with Santa Barbara’s Vega Vineyard & Farm on Wednesday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m., offering six food and wine pairings and a chance to connect with the winemaker and chefs.

Solana Beach’s Vino Carta brings in Michelin’s 2021 Sommelier of the Year, Charlotte Randolph, on Saturday, March 25 at 5 p.m. for a special Sommelier Dinner with a five-course menu cooked up by Long Story Short. The optional wine pairing includes Randolph’s insights on each pour.

San Diego Restaurant Week kicks off on March 26 and runs through April 2, offering the opportunity to try out prix-fixe menus from more than 100 participating restaurants across the county.

Have breaking-news, exciting scoops, or great stories about San Diego’s food scene? Send your pitches to [email protected].


By Elena Gomez

Elena Gomez is an Emmy-nominated reporter who has spent much of her journalism career working in broadcast news in San Diego and Los Angeles. She joined the San Diego Magazine team as a freelance writer in 2020.

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