Ambrogio 15 – Pacific Beach

This building looked familiar. Ah yes, Michael and I visited a while ago when it was Table 926. I remember really liking the interesting layout of the restaurant. What took its place? Enter Ambrogio 15, a Milano pizzeria brought to you by Andrea, Giacomo, and Luca, all hailing from Milan. You don’t need to talk to them for very long to get a sense of how much pride they bring to their restaurant. From the dough recipes developed in Italy to the imported cold cuts and cheeses, this place screams authentic. And while I have never personally been to Italy, if this represents what I might find there, I’m ready to go experience it myself. They just opened on Monday and we had the opportunity to check it out during their soft opening a few days prior.

The core focus is the food, but coming in a close second is the design and ambiance. They hired renowned Italian architect Roberto Giussani to create a dining ambience reminiscent of Milan. I’ll be honest, this is one of those places we walked in wondering if we were at the right spot. And it had nothing to do with the mix up at the hostess station. “I swear we are on the list!” The vibe feels like contemporary meets artsy hipster. Although the restaurant looks quaint from the outside, inside was brimming with energy. There was a powerful, yet controlled chaos, with undeniable buzz. I swear everyone knew each other. Like a scene out of Cheers, “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your naaame, and they’re always glad you caaaame.” Still, we settled in and from the servers to the owners, everyone was very welcoming and friendly.

Their bright orange oven is hard to miss from the dining area. It can fit seven pizzas at once.

Insalata di tartare di tonno: fresh local Ahi tuna, mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, caramelized onions, fresh fennel

We tried to order something from all of the main sections of the menu. First off, a tuna salad.

You probably can’t tell, but the salad is huge with a generous portion of all ingredients, including the tuna. If you like fresh vegetables, you would love this salad. For me, since there wasn’t really a dressing, it was hard to get a perfect bite. The best I could manage was to dig in and make sure to include the caramelized onions into each mouthful. With an appealing presentation befitting of the atmosphere, we felt good with the healthy choice we made.

Nuvola Porchetta e Burrata: cloud of thick but light and soft bread, topped with imported burrata cheese from Puglia and imported Italian Porchetta (pork roast)

This dish was also very light with the bread being airy and soft. As delicate as can be, the porchetta melts in your mouth without leaving a salinous trail behind like many other cold cut meats I am accustomed to.  Silky smooth with an ever so faint hint of sourness, the burrata gave us something fun to play with.

Standing about three inches tall, I thought the bread would be a mess with all the ingredients flopping all over the place. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy the porchetta gave away and broke apart along with the bread and creamy burrata. And as good as it was with incredible ingredients, my Americanized tongue wanted something to dip it into. Maybe a balsamic or something else to give it another added dimension.

Hannibal Lecter: San Marzano Tomato DOP, mozzarella fiordilatte, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano 24 month aged, spicy spianata Calabra (salame), Italian sausage, Italian porchetta (pork roast), imported prosciutto cotto, organic grilled red bell pepper ($19) + Italian porcini mushrooms (+$5)

For me, the star of the show was the pizza. In their dough they use stone ground, organic, GMO-free flour that is said to contain enzymes that make it to easier to digest while containing only one-tenth the fat found in traditional pizza dough. They offer two types of crusts. We chose the special 0 flour which bakes in two minutes. The other is a thicker whole wheat with more chew and pull.

With the paper thin crust as our vessel, this was no ordinary meat lovers paradise. Each topping added its own flair and bling to the pizza party. The savory sausage instilled a heartiness while the salame introduced a slight, but noticeable spiciness which danced around for a few moments post bite. And the mushrooms! I could probably eat an entire pizza with just the mushrooms, they were that good. What ties it all together is the tomato sauce. I haven’t decided if I am on the super authentic DOP San Marzano train yet, but I do know whenever I have had it I seem to be in a better mood afterwards. The designation of DOP basically is a certificate of authenticity for this particular type of tomato being of the San Marzano variety.

Tiramisu in coppa: layers of lady fingers dipped in espresso, imported mascarpone cheese, cocoa powder, chocolate cream and fresh whipped cream served in a glass

I didn’t realize the neat fork design made with the cocoa powder until it was too late. You can barely make it out behind the glass in the picture. No matter. It’s the taste that we were after. Balance. That’s what comes to mind when I think of the dessert and likewise, the pizza. Each component harmoniously sang to me and none of them overpowered, nor underwhelmed. The espresso, chocolate, and mascarpone hit just at the right moments, causing my tongue to flatten at the roof of my mouth to saver each spoonful. The meal so far was leading up to a surprisingly light, yet satisfying end.

Cioccolatina: dark chocolate cake

Last on our Italian journey was the dark chocolate cake. This too was light and maybe not as moist as I was expecting. The fresh whipped cream gave it a nice boost though. Those chocolate molten cakes have ruined me for life.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is how they came up with the name Ambrogio 15. There are many meanings behind the name and I won’t cover them all. Ambrogio itself is the name of the patron saint of Milan, while the number 15 is present throughout the menu. The pizza’s are 15 inches in diameter, which are wider and thinner than standard Neapolitan style pizzas. There are also 15 local craft beers offered. Each letter of Ambrogio also represents something from Milan. Take “A” for example which is a reminder of Alemagna, a historical pastry shop opened in 1933 in Duomo Square.

We quite enjoyed our time at Ambrogio 15. There are many items on the menu I have never had or seen before, which is always exciting for me. The simplicity, high quality ingredients, and strong ties to Milan I’m sure will interest many San Diegan’s looking to get a taste of Italy right here in San Diego. Next time I’d like to try the Scrocchiarella focaccia, which is crunchy instead of soft like the Nuvola. I hope you all get to eat something fun this week!

Disclaimer: We were invited to dine here free of charge, but the opinions stated are our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambrogio 15
926 Turquoise St
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 291-8650
www.ambrogio15.com (soon to launch)

About Darren

Fooood! I love it if you can't tell already. I love everything about it. The taste, the smell, the look, the feel, the satisfaction, the gratification, and ultimately: the fun! I've been in San Diego for about 10 years now and it amazes me that there are still places to uncover. Traveling, eating, and taking pictures of food has always been a hobby of mine. So naturally Michael and I thought it made sense to share what we found with all of you. I tend to side with the savory but never shy away from a knock out dessert. If you have a place you think we haven't tried let us know! We're always on the lookout...

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