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Happy hour with the world's best chef

Haven't heard of the Three Shrimp award?

Nidi di Rondine at Solare Ristorante
Nidi di Rondine at Solare Ristorante

San Diego has a world-famous chef, and I don't mean any of the usual Food Network suspects, who are known for their TV personalities. Last year, Chef Accursio Lotà of Solare Ristorante snagged Best Chef in Barilla’s Pasta World Championship in Milan.

Place

Solare Ristorante Lounge

2820 Roosevelt Road, NTC Promenade, San Diego

Then this year, Solare received the Tre Gamberi (three shrimps — Italy’s Michelin stars) award. And during happy hour at Solare, you can sample the chef's dishes for $5 a plate.

The well-balanced Voltaire St. Cocktail

Happy hour at Solare is a generous 3 to 6:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 4:30 to 6:30 pm on Sunday. In addition to $5 small plates, there’s $2 off all cocktails and beer, and a selection of $5 red and white wine. On this sunny San Diego afternoon, I opted for the Ginger Sicilian ($7 at happy hour prices), a refreshing beverage citrus and enough of a ginger bite, with bourbon, Averna, ginger beer, lime, and aromatic bitters.

Meatballs, small but packed with flavor

David, my constant companion, got the Voltaire St. Cocktail, with bourbon, Bianco Vermouth, Leopold Aperetivo, lemon, and aromatic bitters. He said his cocktail balanced sweetness, bright citrus, deep flavors, and was refreshing. Rather than tasting around the menu as is his custom, he ordered another of the same. As did I.

Pear and gorgonzola pizza with 36-hour fermented dough

On the food front, we began with a Solare classic, an Accursio dish called Nidi di Rondine all Erbette, which translates into “herb swallow’s nest.” The whirlpool-shaped pasta is filled with arugula, spinach, and ricotta baked and served with a Parmigiano Reggiano fondue.

Earthy, rich Porchetta with mushrooms, arugula, and shaved parmesan

The meatballs, or polpette, were two tablespoon-sized mixtures of veal and beef with Parmiggiano Reggiano and breadcrumbs braised in a succulent, rich tomato sauce.

I’d recently learned about a new dough technique Accursio was implementing for the pizza. I got the Bartlett pear and gorgonzola version (also $5). The chef used stone-ground flour that includes the entire wheat berry. The dough at first is coarse and difficult to work with, but he ferments it for 36 hours, which gives it a soft, chewy texture, and a tart sourdough flavor.

We lingered long enough for the dinner hour to begin and broke free of the happy hour menu to sample one of Solare’s This Week Only dishes, a plate of shiitake mushrooms and thinly sliced Porchetta. Also on the dish was peppery fresh arugula and shaved parmesan, which mingled well with the earthy mushroom and savory Porchetta.

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Nidi di Rondine at Solare Ristorante
Nidi di Rondine at Solare Ristorante

San Diego has a world-famous chef, and I don't mean any of the usual Food Network suspects, who are known for their TV personalities. Last year, Chef Accursio Lotà of Solare Ristorante snagged Best Chef in Barilla’s Pasta World Championship in Milan.

Place

Solare Ristorante Lounge

2820 Roosevelt Road, NTC Promenade, San Diego

Then this year, Solare received the Tre Gamberi (three shrimps — Italy’s Michelin stars) award. And during happy hour at Solare, you can sample the chef's dishes for $5 a plate.

The well-balanced Voltaire St. Cocktail

Happy hour at Solare is a generous 3 to 6:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 4:30 to 6:30 pm on Sunday. In addition to $5 small plates, there’s $2 off all cocktails and beer, and a selection of $5 red and white wine. On this sunny San Diego afternoon, I opted for the Ginger Sicilian ($7 at happy hour prices), a refreshing beverage citrus and enough of a ginger bite, with bourbon, Averna, ginger beer, lime, and aromatic bitters.

Meatballs, small but packed with flavor

David, my constant companion, got the Voltaire St. Cocktail, with bourbon, Bianco Vermouth, Leopold Aperetivo, lemon, and aromatic bitters. He said his cocktail balanced sweetness, bright citrus, deep flavors, and was refreshing. Rather than tasting around the menu as is his custom, he ordered another of the same. As did I.

Pear and gorgonzola pizza with 36-hour fermented dough

On the food front, we began with a Solare classic, an Accursio dish called Nidi di Rondine all Erbette, which translates into “herb swallow’s nest.” The whirlpool-shaped pasta is filled with arugula, spinach, and ricotta baked and served with a Parmigiano Reggiano fondue.

Earthy, rich Porchetta with mushrooms, arugula, and shaved parmesan

The meatballs, or polpette, were two tablespoon-sized mixtures of veal and beef with Parmiggiano Reggiano and breadcrumbs braised in a succulent, rich tomato sauce.

I’d recently learned about a new dough technique Accursio was implementing for the pizza. I got the Bartlett pear and gorgonzola version (also $5). The chef used stone-ground flour that includes the entire wheat berry. The dough at first is coarse and difficult to work with, but he ferments it for 36 hours, which gives it a soft, chewy texture, and a tart sourdough flavor.

We lingered long enough for the dinner hour to begin and broke free of the happy hour menu to sample one of Solare’s This Week Only dishes, a plate of shiitake mushrooms and thinly sliced Porchetta. Also on the dish was peppery fresh arugula and shaved parmesan, which mingled well with the earthy mushroom and savory Porchetta.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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