2182 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla
My friend Kimberly is the quintessential lady — she dresses with the style and flair of a Mad Men character but speaks her mind (peppered with plenty of colorful words and ideas) like a post-modern woman. One of Kimberly’s favorite fancy-time restaurants is Piatti in La Jolla, so when I want some one-on-one time with my lady-friend, this is where we go.
The biggest challenge for us at Piatti is not to fill up on the bread. It’s not the bread itself that poses the danger, so much as the dipping concoction that accompanies it. Kimberly claims she could drink this garlic, basil, red pepper, oil (and whatever other magical ingredients make it so damn tasty) mixture, but I’ve yet to see her do more than sop it up with bread.
After enjoying that Italian salsa for a bit while sipping wine and beginning to catch up (it always seems like forever has occurred between our dates), we’ll finally order appetizers. Kimberly has the spinach, radicchio, apple, pancetta, and blue cheese salad with balsamic vinaigrette. With remnants of garlic and pepper flakes in my mouth, fruit and blue cheese does not appeal to me, so I forgo her offers to taste it, though she seems fairly pleased with her first bite.
I get the grilled hearts of Romaine, wrapped in a prosciutto blanket and drenched in a hazelnut vinaigrette. The char on the fresh Romaine, combined with the saltiness of the meat and the sweet, nutty flavor of the dressing is a marvelous combo. Kimberly agrees, and ends up abandoning most of her salad to help me finish mine.
For my main dish, I choose one of the daily specials, squid ink pappardelle and sautéed scallops in a luscious sauce comprising shallots, tarragon, garlic, white wine, butter, and sundried tomato. It’s a large dish and I’ve had my share of bread, so I bring half of it home, and it is just as delicious the next day. I wish I could order that shallot-heavy sauce by itself so I can use it on anything and everything.
The lady orders saffron pappardelle (it’s a pappardelle kind of evening) with shrimp, tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, and arugula in a lemon and white wine broth. Though beautiful, I find this dish to be a little “shrimpy,” by which I mean the shrimp was probably sourced locally, in warmer Pacific waters, whereas I prefer cold-water shrimp because it’s on the “cleaner, sweeter” side of the shrimp spectrum.
My one complaint with Piatti is the table spacing. They really crowd you in, and there’s no blocking out the conversations occurring on either side. One way to avoid this is to go with a party of four, as those tables are set apart, rather than the side-by-side, why-don’t-you-just-sit-on-my-lap seating given to parties of two at the banquette along one wall. Or request the patio, and sit beneath a giant tree lit up with sparkly white lights, where the tables for two are more private. We were fortunate enough to be placed in a corner, so we only suffered people too close to us on one side. Because one of those people was a young boy, and we are ladies, we developed a coded way to talk so as not to freak out the kid’s mother with our epic tales of debauchery. All part of catching up with a dear friend.