A $4 per selection, pick-it-yourself Italian meat and cheese board
The sun came out, making the return of outdoor dining a hot ticket all over town. At least, as we drove across town, we saw packed patios and parklets all over, and lines forming at a few of the more popular spots.
1445 India St, San Diego
Which still feels a little unsettling. Despite the city coming to life in the warm weather, every day when I open the New York Times home page, it informs me “San Diego County is at an extremely high-risk level,” with “extremely high risk” in purple for emphasis. We definitely did want to dine outside, we just didn’t want to line up or jam in around the restaurants everyone was trying to get into. For example, in the thick Little Italy.
However, at the south end of the Little Italy, a block or two from the neighborhood center, the perfect option appeared before us. R&G Salumeria Wine Bar hasn’t been around that long — it opened only a few months ago, just in time for the latest shutdown.
Unlike restaurants a couple blocks away, its sidewalk and parklet seating had plenty of free tables. Probably because people don’t know about the India Street wine bar yet, and because it sits a few steps off Ash Street, where Little Italy yields to the relatively dull Core-Columbia district.
An Italian style wine bar at the southern edge of Little Italy
Nevertheless, R&G remains decidedly Italian. Namesake owners Roberto & Guiseppe greet diners with warm Italian accents, and their whole set-up seems transplanted from the other country. Bottles of wine line the shelves behind a tiled bar in its breezy interior, and a parklet extending seamlessly from the curb outside gives the impression its outdoor tables grace a tree-lined piazza. Only the red flashing lights on a parking meter still planted in the sidewalk really breaks the illusion.
But, in 2021, we were more than happy to suspend our disbelief and treat the afternoon as a wine and cheeseboard occasion. There’s a $45 chef’s selection board loaded with bresaola, buffalo mozzarella, and more. But for a couple, a smaller option proved better. Our choice of imported meats and cheeses were available at four bucks apiece, with a minimum of four selections from ten meat and cheese choices ranging from mortadella to burrata.
A taste of sidewalk life at R&G Salumeria, with parking meter still intact
We let our host decide which three meats and two cheeses we’d enjoy. We were subsequently treated to a 24-month aged prosciutto crudo, salmi Napoli (with black peppercorns), and a Roman porchetta, which sees pork belly and loin roasted together. On the cheese side, we received thick slices of asiago, and crumbles of parmiggiano Reggiano, which has an impossibly deep umami flavor.
The meats and cheeses were laid across leafy greens including arugula and chard; garnished with craisins, peanuts, and olives; and served with olive oil drizzled slices of toasted bread. A perfect pairing for an afternoon chardonnay.
Local sea bass served with sauteed zucchini, eggplant, and cauliflower
And a precursor to some locally caught seabass, pan seared with a white wine sauce and crushed cherry tomatoes. The parklet may have been constricted along India Street, and the fish may have come out of the Pacific, but for a little while there we could squint our eyes and imagine ourselves dining in some uncrowded Mediterranean sidewalk.