When I first arrived in La Costa 25 years ago, Crazy Burro, or The Burro for locals, was the spot to be for food, entertainment, and ambiance. It was a place where people gathered to watch games, listen to music, and socialize.
Sadly, The Burro closed in 2008, and the location saw a few short-lived restaurants come and go over the years. When Ignite Bistro and Wine Spot closed in 2020, it seemed like something was missing from the corner of Alga and El Camino Real.
That’s why I was thrilled to see the sign for Alejandra’s Cantina go up in 2022. As a part of the Grand Restaurant Group (GRG), which also owns Bellamy’s, Cork & Knife, Giaola Italian Kitchen, DiCicco’s, and Nick & G’s, I knew Alejandra’s would be a welcome addition to the local dining scene.
We recently reviewed Alejandra’s, and one word quickly comes to mind: IMPRESSIVE! Despite being open for only a few months, Alejandra’s has already earned OpenTable’s Diners Choice award for good reason.
Guests are invited to experience a unique twist on traditional Mexican cuisine under the leadership of executive chef Amy DiBiase, who draws on a decade of experience managing acclaimed local restaurants, including culinary lead for downtown’s Intercontinental Hotel and the award-winning Tidal at Paradise Resort & Spa. Chef Kevin and chef Dona also assist her in crafting GRG menus.
DiBiase is admired for her bold, modern take on classically revered French and Italian dishes. After spending her formative years in her family’s New England restaurant, Amy was destined for culinary stardom.
At Johnson & Wales University, she double majored in both culinary arts and food service management. The combination of her passion for cooking, extensive experience, and exceptional culinary skills makes her an incredible asset to the GRG team.
Alejandra’s commitment to using fresh, seasonal ingredients to create made-from-scratch Mexican dishes is evident in every bite as well as a wood fire for chicken and fish dishes.
The beverage program also impresses with freshly squeezed juices, hand-selected wines, local craft beers, and an exceptional selection of spirits, including the must-try Alejandra’s Signature Margarita. This cocktail features Codigo Rosa Tequila aged in previously used cabernet sauvignon barrels with triple sec, fresh lime, hibiscus, smoked black sea salt, and a torched rosemary sprig.
The flavors in this margarita are unique, and it’s a testament to the care and creativity that goes into everything at Alejandra’s.
Upon our arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Kristina Miller, Director of Operations for Bellamy’s, Nick & G, Giola, and Alejandra’s, and Juan Canche, Alejandra’s General Manager. Throughout the evening, Trinity Opp, our Server Extraordinaire, proved to be not only friendly but also incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.
Our dining experience started with Alejandra’s Margarita for me and a Tropicus Black Plaque Czech Pilsner for Frank. For appetizers, we had guacamole with tomato, blistered jalapeno, and charred onion served with crispy tortilla chips sprinkled with Tajin Chile Lime seasoning. The tortilla chips are light and crispy because they are cut from whole tortillas, then fried.
After the guacamole, we indulged in a variety of additional appetizers and main entrees, including the chicken taquitos and the Huarache de Birria — masa flatbread topped with melt-in-your-mouth braised short ribs, crema, pickled onions, and queso fresco.
As a self-proclaimed carnitas lover, it was an easy choice for me to order the Carnitas platter, slow-roasted pork shoulder served with flour tortillas, rice, beans, cactus pico, and avocado that left my taste buds dancing. Meanwhile, Frank opted for the Chuleta al Pastor, a brined and adobo-marinated Tomahawk pork chop with charred pineapple and blistered yellow chile, also served with rice and beans.
During our visit, we checked out its new Mariscos Bar, where guests can savor delicious oysters and fresh fish prepared at the sushi-style bar. We also met husband and wife proprietors Sandy DiCicco and Brian Bonar.
“We invested $1.3 million into the restaurant. Improvements included the Mariscos Bar, Translucent Cocktail Bar, tables, chairs, flooring, chandelier lighting, bathroom makeovers, and remodeled 500 square foot outdoor patio,” the couple said.
Sandy, who loves spicy food, always has a batch of secret hot salsa that daring guests can request.
From 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, they offer a happy hour with wine by the glass, draft beer, well drinks, margaritas, and antojitos (appetizer) specials.
For Cinco de Mayo, several tequila brands, including CaliFino, Real del Valle, Codigo 1530, and Patron will be offering tastings and merchandise giveaways on the patio. The event will kick off on May 2 with CaliFino and continue throughout the week with Real del Valle on Wednesday, Codigo 1530 on Thursday, and Patron on Friday.
Guests can enjoy live music each day and indulge in a variety of tequila offerings while celebrating the holiday. See menus and more information at alejandrascantina.com.
— Story by Rico Cassoni
Burtech Family Vineyards is hosting its Paint + Sip event from 2 to 4 p.m. on May 7. Enjoy the afternoon at Burtech’s tasting room patio with a glass of wine while painting beautiful art! Additionally, guests will receive 20% off all bottles of wine. The painting will be guided by Corporate To Canvas artists. BFV Tasting Room Papa B’s Pizza and other menu items will be available for purchase! Limited spots are available. Tickets are $65 per person + fees and must be purchased by May 1 to reserve your spot. RSVP at bit.ly/41P7h9d.
Polo Steakhouse is hosting a legendary Chateau Montelena Wine Dinner at 6 p.m. on May 24. Guests will enjoy a five-course dinner prepared by executive chef Ryan Gilbert paired with seven Chateau Montelena wines. The cost is $295 per person plus tax and gratuity. RSVP at (760) 930-9100.
Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food alongside founder/advisor Frank Mangio, a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. View their columns at tasteofwineandfood.com. Reach them at [email protected]