ABOUT ANTICA TRATTORIA
Since 2001, Antica Trattoria has reigned as La Mesa’s authentic Italian restaurant and wine bar. Our food is prepared with honest flavors, fresh ingredients and simplicity. One taste and you will be transported to a place where the old-world style of cooking is a way of life. We welcome you to savor our specialties.
Our lunch and dinner menus are brimming with a selection of richly flavored appetizers, salads and main courses such as our hand-cut Pappardelle with roasted garlic, oven roasted tomato, sausage, crispy brussels sprouts and toasted bread crumbs, Calamari E Gamberi; a tender calamari steak with shrimp, garlic and capers in a lemon-butter sauce, and pasta dishes including Eggplant Parmigiana and Fettuccini with smoked salmon and shrimp. Pair any one of our dishes with your favorite wine from our extensive selection.
Sicilian-born owner Francesco along with Chef Ruiz welcome the changing seasons to showcase dishes such as Lobster with roasted fennel in spring, Caponata bursting with the flavor of tomato in summer, and autumn’s creation; Pumpkin Ravioli with chestnut cream.
The team at Antica Trattoria, offers old-fashioned hospitality and a warm welcome to every one of our guests. We enjoy serving as your gathering place, whether you’re enjoying a family dinner, a night out with friends, a romantic evening of “amore,” or a private party or event. We are pleased to offer off-site catering for corporate events and family parties.
Come experience the Italian cuisine and old-world flavor of Antica Trattoria!
Francesco Basile might have been destined to become a fisherman instead of a chef, having grown up in a small fishing village on the coast of Sicily near Palermo.
“We had every kind of fish you could imagine,” Basile says. “We caught tuna, mackerel, clams, sea urchins and swordfish.”
His aunt and grandmother kept young Francesco busy by having him help peel potatoes and scrape scales off of the fish they were preparing. He hated it, especially when it came time to clean the silver sardines and anchovies for 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 recipes, such as 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. Adjusting to his new life was difficult at first, since he didn’t speak English, and Americans shopped at grocery stores instead of little artisanal shops. But the chef soon appreciated being exposed to a more Italian-American style of cuisine and learned 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, yet 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.”