Lemon Grove doesn’t get hyped as a dining destination like North Park or Little Italy, but it may be San Diego’s hole-in-the-wall capital. Foodies know that in between the chain restaurants are wonderful ma-and-pa type restaurants providing great food at reasonable prices, especially Coops’ West Texas BBQ, Charley’s Famous Hamburgers, El Pollo Grill, and Lido’s Italian Restaurant.
8131 Broadway, Lemon Grove
Yep, a person can eat pretty well in Lemon Grove, provided they want unpretentious eateries, but the place hasn’t had anything that might be called upscale until now.
Giardino is open and airy with cool touches such as using wine bottles as light bulbs and elaborate chalk drawings that read “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy pizza and that’s kind of the same thing.”
My daughter and started with the meatball lollipops ($9), which are made from a combination of beer, pork, veal, garlic, and tomato sauce and served with toothpick skewers.
“This is the way meatballs should taste,” she said. I agreed and used the opportunity to explain how each type of meat in the mixture adds a flavorful component. The tomato sauce was creamy, slightly tart, and cheesy thanks to grated parmesan cheese.
The Arugula and Prosciutto Salad ($12) dressed with lemon, olive oil, and shaved parmesan was also light and refreshing, and the saltiness of the prosciutto worked well.
For my entrée, I was decided on the Pork Belly Roll ($18), which was wrapped around spinach, mozzarella, and pancetta and served with a creamy mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. This was great comfort food, though the pork in the middle was more tender than the part on the outside.
My daughter ordered lasagna ($15), which came with two kinds of sauce: bolognese and bechamel. My daughter liked it, but when I tried it I noticed that it was at room temperature. I asked for it to be warmer, and they put it in a mini-cast iron skillet in the outside pizza oven.
Once properly heated, it was heavenly. There were a variety of homemade desserts, but we chose the tiramisu ($6). Good call: It was a creamy blend of cocoa and coffee without being excessively sweet.
Giardino is the nicest restaurant in Lemon Grove, a town that has proven it will support restaurants that are good. The prices are fair considering the quality, and I suspect Giardino might even attract even those people who are afraid to go east of I-15.