Family-owned Italian restaurants worth every penny

My husband is fond of comparing our effectiveness level to “killing one bird with two stones.”
Today, that’s what we’re doing. We’ve been recently to Nucci’s and Feliccia’s, two excellent Italian restaurants. Both establishments are family-owned, and both are venerable. In fact, Sam Feliccia is celebrating 30 years on Santa Fe Avenue. By comparison, the 17-year-old Nucci’s is just a teenager.
Now let me warn you. Neither is economical. Both charge what they’re worth and we didn’t find a way to spend no more than $10 for two. So if you want to call us failures, go ahead.
We came closest at Nucci’s. By the way, the décor is maroon and green and soothing. The place was filled with locals, presumably from Shadowridge because they looked prosperous. We spent $10.99 for eggplant parmigana, split it, and it came with a salad which we also split. With the free (and hot) bread tray, it was really filling and quite delicious. Iced tea was $2.25, so you see our resolve went out the window.
At Feliccia’s, we broke the bank. We split an antipasto salad — one of the best I had ever tasted — for $8.99 and split a $10.99 spaghetti with one gorgeous (and huge) meatball. With tip and tea, it topped $30. Since our waitress was Sam’s sister, Cathy, we took her aside and confided our difficulty. She pulled a rabbit out of the hat. On Tuesday, we could buy a pasta dinner and get one free for $12.99. Wednesday, there was a deal on pizza. We were nutty to dine at Feliccia’s on Monday. Be advised.
To round out the Feliccia story, the décor is a rather salmon pink with a smart patterned rug, with walls graced with Feliccia family photos, especially lovely daughters and nieces with equally lovely wedding gowns.
I think the food at both is wonderful from all accounts. Sam even caters the Moonlight Theater, a feat he may cancel this year (except for take-out) because of the shorter season. A noted member of North Coast Church, he also caters church affairs and last month did a meal for the homeless. John has eaten there for years and qualifies as a regular.
Cathy has been waitressing for Sam for 30 years, and is cheerful and efficient. Our server at Nucci’s was Sommer, who has been there since the beginning and who proved very, very helpful. In both cases, the kitchen was prompt and more than competent.
One brief aside: At Feliccia’s, a caddy at the table has fresh grated parmesan cheese. Cathy said they order it in 50-pound rounds and grate plenty for the tables, then sell the rest in the excellent deli case at the entry.
These long-term family-owned eateries are real additions to the Vista cuisine scene. Both are in strip malls. Both have plenty of parking and handicapped wheelchair gullies for entry. (We were chided by a handicapped reader for not alerting you to that. From now on, we will.)
Feliccia’s is located at 1011 S. Santa Fe Ave., Suite C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday. Call (760) 758-9167 for more information.
Nucci’s is located at 1580 S. Melrose Drive, #108. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call (760) 598-1005 for more information

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