2 New San Diego EateriesElevateBoth the Design Vibe and Culinary Ingenuity

James Vernette | May 29, 2019 | Food & Drink

Delicious by Design

Wood elements like the unique ceiling pay homage to Southern architecture.

If you’re going to have a New Orleans-themed restaurant in North Park, what better place than on Louisiana Avenue? Sharing a name with its location, Louisiana Purchase has been heating up the local dining scene since opening earlier this spring. But owner Pete Cich says the concept would be the same regardless of where his resto was located. “The concept happened organically,” he explains. “I go to Louisiana every year for a cocktail convention, and I love Southern hospitality. The space just happened to be on Louisiana.”

While NOLA is the inspiration for the menu and the design, architect Jeff Svitak didn’t try to create a carbon copy of the Big Easy. Instead, the design only hints at New Orleans. “I took a trip to New Orleans to get the flavor of the place and absorb the atmosphere, but we didn’t want to be literal,” Svitak says. “We wanted it to correlate with the existing architecture.” Still, the Purchase does make allusions to the South with elements of wood, marble and rich velvet throughout.

Owner Pete Cich wanted to incorporate outdoor patios and courtyards that would be found at a typical Louisiana restaurant.

Although the space housing the restaurant was 80 percent complete before it was signed on, Svitak made at least one big innovation: Moving the entrance of the restaurant from University Avenue onto Louisiana. “It makes the space more inviting,” Svitak says. Besides the wrought iron rails and hanging plants, another element Svitak incorporated to evoke the Louisiana vibe that Cich craved was an environment of patios, courtyards and open space. “We used sliding glass doors to create an indoor-outdoor feel,” Svitak says. “It’s really fluid. Everything lines up.”

The menu also pays respect to New Orleans’ culinary culture thanks to head chef and Louisiana transplant Quinnton Austin, who spent 15 years cooking in Louisiana and training at the Culinary Institute of New Orleans in order to create high-end versions of Creole and Cajun classics, such as sweet potato cornbread étouffée, gumbo ya ya and savory alligator cheesecake with crawfish cream sauce. 2305 University Ave., 619.255.8278

Fine & Dandy
When brothers Dario and Pietro Gallo moved to San Diego from Calabria, Italy, they had a real dandy of a dream. Now, four years later, that dream is a reality: It’s Il Dandy, a new Italian eatery located on the ground floor of the landmark Mister A’s building in Bankers Hill.

Il Dandy promises a modern take on Italian cuisine with the help of family friends Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, who, besides being father and son, are both Michelin-rated chefs. The Gallos and Abbruzzinos believe San Diego has the potential to be a major food scene. “We all think San Diego is more open to this sophisticated approach to Italian food—no more fettuccini Alfredo or spaghetti and meatballs,” says Dario, who also owns Civico 1845 in Little Italy.

As for the Il Dandy menu, Dario promises the dishes will be simple and elegant. “We let the main ingredient talk and then make them pop,” he says. “Instead of frying things in butter, we might steam. We have taken the Abbruzzinos to all the local suppliers so they can see the fantastic products available locally.”

Having two Michelin chefs at one restaurant is quite a coup for the Gallos, and it suggests that one day Il Dandy might earn its own star, but Dario says that’s not the reason for starting the restaurant. “The star is not the goal,” he insists. “We want to make our guests understand the evolution of Calabrian food. San Diego is perceived as a place where people don’t care about food. We’d like to help the city rise up.” 2550 Fifth Ave., 619.310.5669


Photography by: Louisiana purchase photos by huy believe/believe & Create | il dandy photo by Leonardo Scarriglia