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PAON Restaurant & Wine Bar in Carlsbad won an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine. Shown are owner Mayur Pavagadhi, left, Wine Director Gino Campbell and Managing Partner Steve Barr. Photo by Frank Mangio
ColumnsTaste of Wine

The maestro of Maestoso

Marco Maestoso is a man on a mission. He and his lovely co-owner of Maestoso, Dalila Ercolani, operate a delightfully refreshing new Italian restaurant in the Hillcrest district of San Diego called Maestoso.

Before dining at Maestoso, you must rid yourself of any old ideas about checkered tablecloths, straw wine bottles and mounds of old Mozzarella cheese. This is not your paisan’s restaurant. Maestoso’s food is excitingly different, so much so you’ll want to try everything on the menu. Take the pizza. It’s not called pizza, it’s called La Pinza, a trendy but traditional Roman alternative that is oval shaped and will easily feed two, as an appetizer or main course. 

Delicious Mediterranean food discoveries await you at Maestoso, a new Italian restaurant in Hillcrest. Marco Maestoso and Dalila Ercolani are the owners, shown above with a Pancetta dessert. Photo by Frank Mangio

You will have your choice of seven different creations. I fell in love with two:  the La Mortazza, packed with mortadella sliced meat, burrata, pistachio crumble and cheery tomato confit. The other was the Melanzana di Casa, with eggplant tomato sauce, buffalo cheese and parmesan. “La Pinza is an oval shaped pizza style dish with 17 different grains plus Molina flour,” Ercolani explained. “All ingredients are imported from Italy. The dough is aged 100 hours to eliminate that bloated feeling found in most pizzas.  Marco is brilliant at mixing custom toppings, using his intelligence in artistically discovering combinations found from his time as a Michelin trained international chef.  Each Pinza is $17.

A lively and popular feature at Maestoso is “Passaggi,”(passage in Italian), an exclusive concept where one of the several chefs at the restaurant push a cart full of their special dishes they have made that evening, and present it to each table as a special off the menu treat. Each dish is attractively priced for diners to pick and choose. Each night is always a different set of dish items.

Looking for a fine dining choice? Maestoso has it on the menu with Branzino, an Italian sea bass, Risottto Milanese and Agnello Scottadito, a Mediterranean lamb rack with a delicious mushroom spread on the side. 

Wines come in all Italian flavors and varietals. From Nero D’Avola in Sicily to Batasiolo Barbara in Piemonte, Maestoso has you covered with silky tannic whites to richly bodied reds.

We have to mention a special dessert, a Pancetta, made by Chef Marco and presented as an Italian Meringue, hand-torched with lemon glaze and Guanciale (pork cheek). It looked like a sunny side up egg with bacon crumbles, but no, an amazing pancetta!

Above the door leading to the kitchen is a sign for every Maestoso worker to see and think about, “Make a difference in someone’s life today.” Maestoso is making a big difference in Italian cooking in San Diego. Visit at


Our congratulations go out to the committed restaurants in San Diego who have brought their wine lists to a high level of professionalism to the point that they are able to make this year’s Wine Spectator  Awards of Excellence. Here are selected restaurants where you can count on for a fine glass or bottle of wine with your meal: Acqua in the Hilton San Diego, Addison  Fairmont Del Mar, Argyle Steakhouse Aviara Carlsbad, A R Valentin La Jolla, Avanti Rancho Bernardo, Coasterra San Diego, Firenze Encinitas, Fleming’s San Diego, Grant Grill downtown San Diego, Il Fornaio Coronado and Del Mar, Jakes’ Del Mar, Marina Kitchen San Diego, Mille Fleurs Rancho Santa Fe, Mr. A’s San Diego, Nine-Ten the Grande Colonial La Jolla, PAON Carlsbad, Sbicca Del Mar, Seasons 52 La Jolla, Solare San Diego, Twenty /20 Grill the Sheraton in Carlsbad and the WineSellar & Brasserie San Diego.


• Taste of San Marcos 2018 happens from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 8 on North City Drive.  Cost is $35 for lots of samples and sips in a Sip Garden. Unlimited sips of local brands plus local restaurant sampling. Call (760) 744-1270 for details.

• MiraCosta College is offering a Wine 101 Class starting Tuesday, Sept. 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. and going for six weeks. Cost is $98 for tuition, $60 for supplies collected in the class. Get the full story at (619) 980-2135.

• Seasalt Seafood and Steak in Del Mar brings the legendary Cakebread wines to the restaurant for a memorable wine dinner, at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 and Sept. 28. Seasalt has paired some of Cakebread’s best wines with dishes that bring out the best of their flavors. Call (858) 755-7100 to secure your spot. Cost is $75 each.

• Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas, in cooperation with Make A Wish San Diego, is brining yet another memorable Wine and Wishes event from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 13 at the OMNI La Costa Resort. Some of the best Napa Valley wines will be available for tasting along with local restaurants and entertainment. Reserve tickets, tables or a sponsorship by visiting

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