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Fine casual pasta shapes at Ciccia Osteria

New sauces, hats, and ribbons, and an old favorite

Sombreri pasta tubes are twisted into little sombrero shapes.
Sombreri pasta tubes are twisted into little sombrero shapes.
Place

Ciccia Osteria

2233 Logan Avenue, San Diego

I don’t know whether San Diego has gone through some sort of culinary looking glass, but we seem to have entered an era where Little Italy is flush with great non-Italian restaurants, while every other urban neighborhood suddenly has a fine Italian place to call its own. In Barrio Logan, the place is Ciccia Osteria, a pasta-making oasis that opened earlier this year on Logan Avenue with a painted floor medallion premising, “casual fine Italian cuisine.” It's a contradiction in terms that nearly makes sense on these blocks, where we’re more likely to find a line out front of custom Chevys with tricked out paint jobs than the valet line of German cars typically seen outside fine dining restaurants.

The painted floor medallion at Ciccia Osteria

The “casual” here is easy to spot: rather than be seated upon arrival, customers must stand in line to order and pay for food from a service counter. Once your order is in, the staff will seat you at a table, either inside or on the homey dining patio, and from that moment forward, you’ll receive table service (meaning if you decide order a second round of drinks, or dessert, you’ll need to pay for those separately). Usually, I’m not much a fan of such attempts to mitigate the costs of service, but even on a busy Friday night it seems to work here. I suspect because, from management to staff, everyone working is so friendly and upbeat, and most likely Italian.

Pasta ribbons with a stew of rabbit, duck, quail, and chicken

As for the “fine” half of the equation, I have to assume that starts with bread service that includes onion focaccia and a dipping ramekin of mascarpone, ricotta, balsamic vinegar, and calabrian chili. In terms of pasta, “casual fine” results in simple $13 plates featuring both pastas and sauces you’re unlikely to encounter at other restaurants. For example, the Sombreri pasta, which puts saffron, house-made sausage, mascarpone cheese, and a light bell pepper sauce over tube pastas twisted up to look like little hats. At the top of the pasta menu there’s Ubriaca: it’s also made with sausage (plus ricotta and shallots), but most distinctive because its gemelli pasta has been cooked in red wine, resulting in purple noodles and an earthy tang.

A comfortable, casual patio in Barrio Logan

There is a lot to choose from, including stuffed pastas and interesting sauces, the likes of which never made the menu at 20th century Italian American restaurants. Think: pear ravioli with gorgonzola sauce and walnut, or celery root stuffed capelli with brown butter, pancetta, and pine nuts. The restaurant’s top seller sees a dry stew of chicken, quail, rabbit, and duck served over the wavy ribbon pasta mafalde. The wavy ribbons of this pasta lend a distinctive and satisfying chew that almost overcomes the slightly gamey sauce as the most memorable part of the dish.

Order at the counter, then be seated.

While I’ve enjoyed tasting through the pastas at Ciccia Osteria, following several visits I am torn. Most of these dishes have shown me something new, interesting, even unexpected. For a lifelong spaghetti eater, just having a chance to sample so many variations at a reasonable price makes lining up at this pretty Barrio Logan patio worthwhile. But I must confess, the best thing I’ve tasted here was the least surprising. Ciccia Osteria’s fettucine Bolognese offers everything I want in a meat sauce, and it’s already one of my favorite pastas in town.

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Sombreri pasta tubes are twisted into little sombrero shapes.
Sombreri pasta tubes are twisted into little sombrero shapes.
Place

Ciccia Osteria

2233 Logan Avenue, San Diego

I don’t know whether San Diego has gone through some sort of culinary looking glass, but we seem to have entered an era where Little Italy is flush with great non-Italian restaurants, while every other urban neighborhood suddenly has a fine Italian place to call its own. In Barrio Logan, the place is Ciccia Osteria, a pasta-making oasis that opened earlier this year on Logan Avenue with a painted floor medallion premising, “casual fine Italian cuisine.” It's a contradiction in terms that nearly makes sense on these blocks, where we’re more likely to find a line out front of custom Chevys with tricked out paint jobs than the valet line of German cars typically seen outside fine dining restaurants.

The painted floor medallion at Ciccia Osteria

The “casual” here is easy to spot: rather than be seated upon arrival, customers must stand in line to order and pay for food from a service counter. Once your order is in, the staff will seat you at a table, either inside or on the homey dining patio, and from that moment forward, you’ll receive table service (meaning if you decide order a second round of drinks, or dessert, you’ll need to pay for those separately). Usually, I’m not much a fan of such attempts to mitigate the costs of service, but even on a busy Friday night it seems to work here. I suspect because, from management to staff, everyone working is so friendly and upbeat, and most likely Italian.

Pasta ribbons with a stew of rabbit, duck, quail, and chicken

As for the “fine” half of the equation, I have to assume that starts with bread service that includes onion focaccia and a dipping ramekin of mascarpone, ricotta, balsamic vinegar, and calabrian chili. In terms of pasta, “casual fine” results in simple $13 plates featuring both pastas and sauces you’re unlikely to encounter at other restaurants. For example, the Sombreri pasta, which puts saffron, house-made sausage, mascarpone cheese, and a light bell pepper sauce over tube pastas twisted up to look like little hats. At the top of the pasta menu there’s Ubriaca: it’s also made with sausage (plus ricotta and shallots), but most distinctive because its gemelli pasta has been cooked in red wine, resulting in purple noodles and an earthy tang.

A comfortable, casual patio in Barrio Logan

There is a lot to choose from, including stuffed pastas and interesting sauces, the likes of which never made the menu at 20th century Italian American restaurants. Think: pear ravioli with gorgonzola sauce and walnut, or celery root stuffed capelli with brown butter, pancetta, and pine nuts. The restaurant’s top seller sees a dry stew of chicken, quail, rabbit, and duck served over the wavy ribbon pasta mafalde. The wavy ribbons of this pasta lend a distinctive and satisfying chew that almost overcomes the slightly gamey sauce as the most memorable part of the dish.

Order at the counter, then be seated.

While I’ve enjoyed tasting through the pastas at Ciccia Osteria, following several visits I am torn. Most of these dishes have shown me something new, interesting, even unexpected. For a lifelong spaghetti eater, just having a chance to sample so many variations at a reasonable price makes lining up at this pretty Barrio Logan patio worthwhile. But I must confess, the best thing I’ve tasted here was the least surprising. Ciccia Osteria’s fettucine Bolognese offers everything I want in a meat sauce, and it’s already one of my favorite pastas in town.

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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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