Looking for a great Italian restaurant in Downtown San Diego? Acqua al 2 lies on the southern end of the Gaslamp Quarter and might need to be on your list of award-winning restaurants to visit. Authentic you ask? Authentic enough to have a sister restaurant in Florence, Italy! My friend Kelly and I were finally going to try this Italian restaurant out. Florence was one of the cities we visited together, so it was the perfect place to catch up on a girls date and reminisce about our traveling days!
Since it was our first time dining at Aqua al 2, we got a little tour of the restaurant, which answered a burning question that I had: what’s with all of the plates on the walls?? It actually is a pretty neat attribute- the plates are signed by celebrities and sports stars that have dined there. My favorite plate that I saw was signed by Joe Torre! Yankee fans know what I’m talking about. If you eat at Acqua al 2, be sure to take a moment to check out the plates – you never know whose signature you’ll find! Also, the interior of the restaurant completely took me back to my travels in Italy.
We were seated on their outdoor patio, a prime spot for people watching (especially during Comic-Con and New Years- note to self!) and perfect for enjoying the hustle and bustle of the Gaslamp Quarter. Wine was poured, and we were first brought out fresh bread- in a paper bag! Why a bag? The paper bag preserves the freshness of the bread- and it certainly was fresh. I liked that touch! It came with a lentil bean dip that paired extremely well.
If you are like me – you like to sample everything. I would recommend the “Specialty Menu,” which includes 5 pasta samples, a sampler platter of 3 entrées, and a sampler of 4 desserts. Wanting a variety, we went with the specialty menu, and were blown away by caliber of each dish. I’ll break it down by dish to make it easy to follow.
Lumaconi al Broccoli – Broccoli lovers will completely fall in love with this pasta dish. (If you don’t like broccoli, I would steer clear.) Fortunately, I happen to LOVE broccoli, and was extremely happy with this pasta. It was very creamy, and the flavor of the broccoli was prominent. I only wish there was more. Luckily, even better things were to come.
Farfalline alla Zucca- Bowtie pasta with butternut squash, rosemary and garlic. Kelly described it as being “sweet,” and she was right! I had never had a pasta dish that was sweet before, but it absolutely delicious. It also reminded me of a Fall dish – perfect for November!
Spaghetti- Pretty self-explanatory – can’t go wrong here!
Fusilli Lunghi al Marscarpone e Fungi – Corkscrew pasta with porcini mushrooms, garlic and marscarpone cheese sauce. With all of the delicious options we tried- this was my least favorite.
Fusilli Lunghi ai Pepperoni- this was hands down my favorite pasta that we tried. Note- pepperoni in Italian has a whole different meaning- which is a type of bell pepper- not the common pizza topping ingredient . This dish was creamy, with a little bite to it. Kelly enjoyed it too, and I would order a whole meal of this pasta and be completely content!
Next up was the platter of second courses….I wasn’t prepared for the unique amazing flavors that I was about to consume! Check out the photos below- the presentation was absolutely fabulous!
Filetto al Mirtillo – Never in my life did I think I would have a steak smothered in blueberry sauce. Before you knock it- you must try it. It was sweet, savory and unique. The steak was served medium rare- just the way I love it.
Petto di Pollo al Porto – A sautéed chicken breast covered in a creamy port wine sauce. The chicken was moist, and the sauce was very light.
Filetto all’Aceto Balsamico- The greatest steak I have ever tasted- and I mean it. I am a sucker for balsamic- the thick, authentic sweet kind, and this steak was covered in a sweet balsamic glaze. This was definitely the star of the show, and I remember telling Kelly repeatedly how much I loved it. The only con- I will be craving this steak for months! When I return I will be ordering this again, and it would be hard to beat its flavor anywhere else.
We felt as though we were going to pop, but nevertheless, dessert was next, and there is ALWAYS room for dessert. The sampler platter came with Tiramsu, Panna Cotta, Cheesecake, and a flourless chocolate cake. My favorite was the creamy cheesecake, and Kelly’s was the tiramisu. The meal was topped off with a cup of Caffe Americano, (cup of coffee).
We were completely stuffed by the end of our sampling from the Specialty menu. Carlos, the GM of the restaurant, was a very friendly man and came over and chatted with us about our trips to Florence and our love for Italy. He also gave us the interesting restaurant tour where we learned a little bit more about Acqua and its history. Thursdays are “Aperitivo Thursdays,” where happy hour is accompanied by complimentary delicious appetizers (Italian style). I will be checking that out soon- and will be sure to write about it. For those who will be eating out this Thanksgiving holiday, Acqua al 2 will be hosting a 3 course Thanksgiving Dinner which is up on their website. We had a great experience, and I would highly recommend it for anyone craving Italian food or for date night if you really want to impress someone special.
Acqua al 2
322 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101