At Antica Trattoria, authentic Italian food restaurant and Wine bar located in the La Mesa, you can travel to Italy with just a taste of our delicious food. We have a great variety of platters, including pasta, ravioli, soups, meats and many other choices.
Our concept, simply enjoy delicious Italian food and wines while. For your private parties or events we can serve you with the best food for that special moment. Thank you and hope to see you soon!
Antica Trattoria is a warm restaurant with an old-fashioned sense of hospitality that quickly became a gathering place for diners in Lake Murray and the rest of San Diego when it opened in 2001. For executive chef and owner Francesco Basile, good cuisine is about honest flavors, fresh ingredients and simplicity. That’s the kind of food he grew up eating by the seaside in Sicily and it’s what he learned in culinary school in Italy.
“My food is fresh and seasonal and the prices are reasonable,” Francesco says. “That’s why we have so many diners who come back over and over again.”
Diners savor Antica Trattoria’s richly flavored dishes such as Maile Piemontese, a juicy pepper-crusted pork loin with caramelized apples in a red wine reduction; tender penne pasta with roasted eggplant, fresh tomatoes and dried ricotta; or zabaglione painstakingly whipped by hand. Francesco and his cook Eric Ruiz look forward to the changing seasons which allow them to showcase dishes like lobster with roasted fennel in spring, caponata bursting with the flavor of tomato in summer or pumpkin ravioli with chestnut cream sauce in autumn.
“Sometimes you see food and and it has a beautiful presentation but you taste it and it’s not good,” Francesco says. “My philosophy when I do a plate is people have to taste all the ingredients in the dish.”
The team at Antica Trattoria are skilled at all facets of hospitality whether their clients are dreaming of a romantic dinner paired with specially selected wines, or need off-site catering for corporate events or family parties. Francesco and Marta invite you to come experience their old-world style of service and satisfying Italian cuisine at Antica Trattoria.
By all indications, it seems Francesco Basile might have been destined to become a fisherman instead of a chef. He grew up in small fishing village on the coast of Sicily near Palermo.
“We had every kind of fish you can imagine,” Basile says, “tuna, mackerel, clams, sea urchins and sword fish.”
His aunt and grandmother kept young Francesco busy by having him help peel potatoes or scrape the scales off fish. He hated it, especially at Christmas time when he had to help clean the silver sardines and anchovies that went into the elaborate Feast of Seven Fishes that marked Christmas Eve. But then something changed.
“I started to love it,” he says. “I wanted to go to cooking school.”
Francesco attended culinary school at the Istituto Statale Alberghiero in Palermo, where he learned the right way to hold a knife, how to make a silky and intensely flavored brown sauce and how to be economical and use every scrap in the kitchen down to onion skins and wilted lettuce leaves. Upon graduation, Francesco worked at a beach resort on Isola d’Elba, creating light seafood dishes and richer ones like the Cacciucco alla Livornese, a seafood soup with a tomato broth that’s similar to bouillabaisse. He cooked at a ski resort in the mountains, rolling noodles like pappardelle by hand and making warming dishes like roasted pork and lamb.
After a few years of cooking, Francesco - like many young Italians - figured it was time to find his fortune in America. In 1991, he moved to Huntington Beach and started cooking at a bustling restaurant called Mangia Mangia. It was hard at first, since he didn’t speak English and Americans shopped at grocery stores instead of little artisanal shops. But he soon appreciated being exposed to a more Italian American style of cuisine and learning how to be consistent in a high volume restaurant. He returned to Italy for a short while and then came back to stay in California in 1994. Francesco cooked at Venus at the Spa in South Coast Plaza, where he learned how to use herbs, fruit and spices to create spa cuisine that was light and still flavorful. In 1996, he landed a chef position at Panevino in the Gaslamp Quarter, which brought him to San Diego.
“It was such a nice experience to be in beautiful San Diego,” Basile says. During his three-year tenure at the award-winning restaurant, Francesco created signature dishes like a rack of veal roulade stuffed with a spinach frittata in porcini mushroom sauce.
One day a salesman who happened to share the last name of Basile with Francesco came into the restaurant. They weren’t relatives, but Francesco jokingly asked to meet his cousins. The salesman introduced Francesco to his daughter Marta and the pair fell in love. They married and have a daughter named Chiara. In 2001, Francesco and Marta became enchanted with La Mesa and opened Antica Trattoria. “I finally realized my dream to open my own restaurant,” Basile says with a smile. “The neighborhood is beautiful and the clientele supported me from the first day.”
Written by Maria Hunt
Food & Drink Editor