We have a marvelous little transit service on the coast here from Oceanside to downtown San Diego, called the Coaster. It’s a train on the Amtrak lines called the Coaster with clean comfortable 2 level cars, reasonable rates and a schedule not really conducive to a night out on the town from North County but, great to meet my husband coming in from the airport. I took it to meet Dan who was flying in from Phoenix on Friday evening.
I picked up the train in Encinitas at a roomy train stop with lots of free parking and self serve ticket kiosks. It’s a pleasant 40 minute trip to the Santa Fe Depot downtown from there. This particular afternoon was the usual eclectic mix of commuters with high tech looking bicycles, a couple moms with cute kids, trendy millennials doing whatever it is they do (and looking super cool doing it) and the random suburban, middle aged white woman going to meet her husband downtown for a nice evening (me!).
The train arrived right on schedule with it’s usual prolific honking, as Encinitas is a largely pedestrian community and quite busy along the train route, and we had a brief moment to hop on before we were off to the next stop, Solana Beach. I just took the first available seat in the car I hopped in on, facing forward on the west side so I had a great view as we gently chugged down the coast. A beautiful evening in late October made for terrific scenery and I was motivated to record the stretch of beach known as Cardiff or Cardiff Reef as I thought about people who don’t live along the coast and how this must look to them. The window was dirty, but I think it came out ok. Nice thing was, the car I was in had no one talking on their phone or playing music, just the quiet and the sound of the train so if you want to watch with the sound turned on you can get the full effect.
After a very pleasant ride devoid of all human chatter we arrived at the end of the line, the downtown station: Santa Fe Depot. Dan was flying in and planned to take the shuttle to leave his luggage where he had parked his car and then walk to meet me in Little Italy at Davanti Enoteca a restaurant we like there. I was to walk from the train. In one of our usual happy coincidences/results of great planning we walked into the restaurant within seconds of each other.
Davanti Enoteca has a very good chicken liver pate that Dan adores so we were going to at least start there with some wine and the pate at the bar, but it being Friday night we were unable to find a seat in the bar and decided to just stroll until we found somewhere that we could. Across the street we found a cute little grouping of chairs around a coffee table right by the open railing to the outside in the lounge/bar of the restaurant Sorrento.
We settled in there and found they had a very hospitable bartendress who came to help us. They had a nice little list of craft cocktails and she was happy to help with her suggestions. They also brought some great bread with a little dish of amazing pesto dipping sauce which was a real treat for me. Here’s Dan looking very comfortable in this romantic little nook he found.
After a nice little while there we decided to see if we could squeeze in for our pate across the street but found they were even more crowded than earlier so we needed a new plan. I remembered that there was a Filippis Pizza Grotto about a block away and Dan had never been before. Filippis was something that I grew up with in Pacific Beach, and is rather iconic for most San Diegans. There are now Filippis in many locations including this charming one in Little Italy. I am happy to say that little has changed.
Check out this menu they had hanging on the wall from the 1950’s! Cheese pizza for a buck! Prices have changed..But the stemware hasn’t!
The red checkered tablecloth, chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, no nonsense wait staff, it has that perfect pairing of over the top character and authenticity that is impossible to fake. Dan was charmed immediately, I was comfortably transported back to memories of family outings 45 years ago. I heard an out of town visitor call someone on his cell phone and tell them “You’re not going to believe where I am right now.”…how great is that?
Dan wanted pizza, so did I but I wanted to see what they would do with eggplant parmigiana too, so I ordered that. Look what we got!
Enough food for us to take home and have 2 more meals! Dan, the cheese lover, was even heard to utter the words “Who would order extra cheese on this pizza?”. It was dripping down the sides of an already cut slice as we watched. The dough was thick and delicious, the cheese plentiful and chewy the sauce great and toppings very tasty. My eggplant and lasagna were good as well, even better the next day though.
Add to the plentiful, delicious food and quirky ambience a good dose of sassy humor from our attentive waitress and we had a great time at Filippis Pizza Grotto. A short walk back to Dan’s car, drive to Encinitas to get my car and then home after an impulsive little adventure in our own town. It doesn’t get much better than that, and it wasn’t even Saturday yet!