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Chef Marcello Avitabile created Paccheri Pescatore (Seafood Pasta) made with fresh fish, mussels, and homemade Paccheri pasta. Photo via Facebook
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Taste of Wine: A taste of Amalfi Coast at Lake San Marcos

I was glad to have rewatched CNN’s Stanley Tucci “Searching for Italy” special featuring the Amalfi Coast and neighboring Napoli (Naples) before visiting Amalfi’s restaurant and bar at Lake San Marcos.

The show gave me and Senior Editor Frank Mangio an even greater appreciation for what Amalfi co-founder Emilio Muslija, of Florence, Italy, along with his three partners, Giuseppe Annunziata (wine Selection/partner), Marcello Avitabile (executive chef and five-time world pizza champion) and Joseph Serra (executive pizza chef) created in the backdrop of Lake San Marcos.

The latter three partners all grew up in Amalfi Coast, a 34-mile-long stretch of coastline in the Campania region of Italy. All partners met working at Buona Forchetta and had a dream to create their own eatery with the fusion of their Italian heritage.

What I did not know until our visit is that there are two distinct restaurants.

“We have two completely different restaurants, the upstairs Amalfi Cucina Italiana and the downstairs Amalfi Marina Bar, which is an Italian, Mexican, and American fusion eatery featuring 24 local craft breweries along with our authentic pizzas,” Emilio said.

What is most impressive is the Weekly Special menu that can change several times a week.

“This allows us to take advantage of the freshest farm-to-table produce and imported meats and cheeses we receive (from Italy),” said Emilio.

Chef Marchello can also create your favorite dishes that are not on the Weekly Special or standard menu with something for everyone featuring appetizers, salads, pizza, pasta, along with meat and fish dishes and thrilling cocktails.

Amalfi’s Executive Chef Marcello Avitabile is a five-time world pizza champion. Photo via Facebook

Guests will also be impressed with the extensive Italian wine list chosen by Giuseppe, including a 2017 Sassicaia Super Tuscan Bolgheri. Customers can call ahead to see what the specials are or put in a request for their favorite dish.

Frank and I started our feast with the Burrata Special featuring imported Burrata cheese made from Buffalo milk from Napoli with local San Marcos grown San Marzano tomatoes and basil topped with pistachio nuts and extra virgin olive oil.

Next up was a Spaccanapoli pizza with San Marzano tomato and imported mozzarella, spicy salame, ham, and sausage baked in a custom-made Stefano Ferraro Authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizza oven capable of reaching temperatures up to 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. Pizza Chef Joseph created a perfect “meat lovers” pie with expected leoparding on the crust.

For our main course, Frank savored the Bolognese homemade lasagna layers. I couldn’t resist the Paccheri Pescatore. This was a beautiful dish with homemade Paccheri pasta and fresh-caught fish, mussels, and clams in a rich San Marzano broth.

The Paccheri Pescatore was Amalfi Coast cuisine at its best.  We perfectly paired this goodness with a 2015 Col D’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino.  Great cherry, red fruit palate with Old World earthiness on the finish and vanilla with spice on the nose.

Make sure to leave room for dolce.  We enjoyed homemade Tiramisu and Cannoli along with Portofino Lemon Drops (Limoncello). Another great after-dinner drink is the Amaro del Capo (Espresso Martini).  Those wanting even more Italy can take a Gondola ride with authentically dressed gondoliers throughout Lake San Marcos.

A huge thanks to our rockstar server Carlo for the attentive service, suggestions, and information over the evening. Amalfi Cucina Italiana and Amalfi Marina Bar are a must for hotel guests, locals, and visitors.  Great Job Emilio and partners for creating A Taste of Amalfi Coast at Lake San Marcos!  Details at amalficucinaitaliana.com.

— Story by Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes
  • Mark these dates and be sure to be at the 12th Annual San Diego Spirits Festival Sat. Sept. 11 from 2 to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 12, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, 1000 N. Harbor Dr. San Diego. Bigger and better than ever and back in action, this spirited event brings an array of unique adult beverages, hand-crafted cocktails and live entertainment. A highlight of the festival is the San Diego International Spirits Competition with a blind tasting and analysis by a panel of expert judges. VIP ticket holders will be able to sample the winning brands and meet the judges in a special VIP area. Daily prices for Sat. ($85) and Sun. ($75). VIP tickets Sat. ($130) and Sun. ($110). Buy tickets online at sandiegospiritsfestival.com.
  • Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria in Carmel Valley has its monthly wine dinner with the award-winning Cass Winery, of Paso Robles, on Thurs. July 29 at 6 p.m.  This five-course dinner includes braised petite lamb shanks with the Cass 2017 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a Chef’s Surprise dessert. The cost is $75. per person. Call for reservations at 858-538-5884.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. 

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