I’m going to start this week’s blog with a little bit of a personal story. It’s a slightly more serious subject matter than I usually include in my ramblings, but I think it is important to give you the whole picture. Last Monday, I found out that we lost my grandmother unexpectedly. My grandma was a fantastic woman. She instilled in me my love of animals, and made me into the vet I am today. She also was an excellent cook. Picture that stereotypical grandmother who fed you even when you weren’t hungry. Her food made you happy and made you feel loved. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to have an experience that reminded me of that, and of her.
After a long week, Ian decided to spoil me on Saturday night by taking me out to a nice dinner at a restaurant that has been on our list since last year. Antica Trattoria is a small, unassuming restaurant located in a strip mall in La Mesa. It is a few minutes from Sean and Ian’s old apartment. It is one of the Bassett family’s favorite spots, and one I have heard about for about two years now. The outside doesn’t seem like anything to write home about (or to write a blog about), but the inside quickly transports you to a fine Italian restaurant which is nicely decorated with soft lighting. The first things you notice are the large wine selection and the delicious aroma. It smells like meat, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
The meal starts off with some warm, crusty bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Honestly, I think it’s a travesty when Italian restaurants do not serve bread in a similar fashion (or charge you for it). I want good, chewy bread and a perfectly seasoned olive oil or tangy balsamic vinegar as soon as I sit down! I will also accept a white bean dip! We proceeded with some homemade meatballs as an appetizer. They were topped with ricotta, tomato sauce, and green olives. They were meaty, tender, and succulent. Main course time! Ian ordered off-menu and got the Penne al Forno. It used to be on the menu, so Ian batted his eyelashes and convinced them to make it for him. Picture Italian mac and cheese (to the next level). Penne pasta with a creamy mascarpone sauce, parmigiano, brie, pancetta, and chicken all topped with breadcrumbs. It’s stick to your ribs goodness. I got the homemade gnocchi. It was served with short rib, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, a tomato/ragu-like sauce, and fresh basil. It was like pot roast meets Italian. The gnocchi was soft and pillowy. No fork (or chewing) required. As soon as I put that first bite in my mouth, I was hit with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and love. I actually started crying in the restaurant (sorry babe– and our waiter). That dish felt wonderfully like something my grandma would have made me in her kitchen. As Ian put it, “good food should make you feel something.” That meal made me feel a bittersweet sense of sadness and happiness all at the same time. I am grateful to Ian and Antica Trattoria for giving me such a wonderful experience.
You can tell Antica Trattoria puts a lot of love and passion in their food. They greeted us like family, and treated us like it throughout our entire meal. As sappy as it sounds, this restaurant will now always have a special place in my heart.