Did you know that California has a state fish? It happens to be a bright orange fellow called the Garibaldi, which is named in honor of Italian revolutionary hero Giuseppe Garibaldi. San Diego’s largest speakeasy-style restaurant – whose entry is hidden within the InterContinental San Diego, a luxury waterfront hotel – is also called Garibaldi, named to honor both the state fish swimming in the ocean just a few feet away as well as Garibaldi himself.
The food is also homage to Garibaldi’s Italian roots, with an array of isle-inspired Italian fare from Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of 20 regions in Italy. But, put a pin in reading more about the food for a moment. That is getting ahead of ourselves!
Let’s talk first impressions.
Once you actually find the entry (ask at the front desk or when making reservations, and they’ll give you some good hints), it is hard to not be overwhelmed with the beauty of the floor-to-ceiling murals of the ocean that lead down a hallway to the al fresco space. Before getting seated, be sure to check out the rooftop garden en route to the main dining area. That garden is to thanks for many of the vibrant herbs you’ll soon enjoy in your dishes.
Once seated, peruse the cocktail menu first. It has Italian amaro-style cocktails to complement the food, though many are so intricate and fabulous it is worth getting one well before ordering (and then another to enjoy with your dishes). Of particular note is the Sardinian Old Fashioned, which uses Mirto liqueur distilled from myrtle berries. When possible, glassware for the cocktails is sourced from Sardinia or Italy to ensure authenticity. Oh, and if you’re more a wine or beer person, there is also a curated selection of Italian beer and regional varietals. Something for everyone, and all set against a spectacular view of the beach and Pacific Ocean.
The dining experience starts with Italian antipasti and small plate offerings including imported cheese, roasted garlic focaccia, steamed Venus clams, tuna crudo and charred squid. There are also some sensational vegetarian options – either to start, to share or as a main dish – especially the roasted rainbow carrots in Marsala, grilled Suncoast Farms artichoke with pecorino-infused cream sauce, and organic cauliflower with Castelvetrano olives, golden raisins and earthy pine nuts.
The main entrée dishes are divided into two groups: handmade pastas and unconventional meats. Each of the pastas is freshly made in house and combines more traditional flavors with unique twists. The spaghetti, for example, has fennel, pink peppercorns and a uni sauce. And then there is the culurgiones di patate, a traditional Sardinian pasta that looks like a cross between gnocchi, ravioli and Chinese dumpling. The stuffed pasta itself is delightful, but the combination of sage and pecorino-brown butter froth takes it over the top. When it comes to the unconventional meats, don’t miss the grilled boar sausage or myrtle brined crispy skin-on pork belly.
Though it’s tough, try to save room for dessert or an after-dinner drink. The goat cheese, honey and lavender gelato is quite light and refreshing, and the limoncello may look and sound tart, but is an explosion of lovely sweetness guaranteed to provide a happy ending to a memorable meal.
For more information on Garibaldi, visit www.catchgaribaldi.com.