I can honestly say that Pepe’s Italian Restaurant in Ocean Beach is the first local, independent business that stole my heart when I moved to San Diego at the end of 1997. Darla and Ed Bebrin are the owners, cook extraordinaire and artist of this one-of-a-kind Italian restaurant. Late 1997, early 1998 was an El Niño year in San Diego. It was raining a lot (I had moved from Paris and was really hoping for a sunny winter!), I was in love (still am!) with my now husband but I was missing my family and friends I had left 10,000 kilometers away (yes, I still think in kilometers!). One day, while walking on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, I literally followed my nose to this incredible smell of a tomato sauce and what I guessed to also be meatballs. I did not know where my olfactory quest would lead me, but I was pretty sure I had struck gold when it came to finding the homey, made from scratch, meal I had been longing for in my discovery of the San Diego food scene 15 years ago. Upon entering Pepe’s I was immediately greeted by Darla, with her big smile, singing voice and unmistakable Connecticut accent. I was lonely and Darla’s welcoming was what I had been looking for. I sat and ordered a big plate of pasta! Hey, I was 15 years younger, I did not have 2 babies yet and it was cold and damp that day! Darla asked me right away where I was from. We struck up a conversation and at the end of my meal I felt I had made a new friend and I had! I went back the following week to ask Ed and Darla if they could cater food for our upcoming wedding. Our guests still talk about the food we served that night. My friendship and long love story with Darla and Ed’s food was born! The recipes Ed cooks have been created and inspired by Darla’s Italian grandmother. I regularly return to eat my favorite Italian comfort food. Like each and everyone of their regular customers, I have favorites. I am trying to really just pick a few here but the task is hard! So here is my attempt: The marinara, basil and cream that go into the Crema Rosa sauce is my ultimate favorite. I think that sauce tastes the best with rigatoni pasta. I love to add Ed and Darla’s made-from-scratch meatballs to my dish. This selection makes for my own little “Proust Madeleine” memory. I return to it whenever I need comfort. I also love their eggplant salad. The mix of breaded eggplant, roasted red peppers and feta cheese over a bed of greens topped with Darla’s secret salad dressing recipe is a must-have! And if I had to choose only one of their delicious pizzas, I would have to go with the Bahdahbing-Bahdahboom, the name I will never forget since butchering it while being interviewed years ago by the Unknown Eater at Pepe’s!
Progress in South Park is a unique, vibrant and a great gift and furniture store where exceptional Design is at the center of every piece sold there. I will admit that the first time I walked in Progress, I had my doubts: Despite being unique and cool, could a store in this location work? The building where Progress is located had been vacant for a while. I was so happy to see businesses slowly starting to occupy the building and I really wanted them to succeed. I will now publicly (of course publicly since I am posting this article on our site!) say that Christy and Bruce Jaynes had the vision I was lacking on my first visit to Progress. I am a total convert! I love this store so much I find myself looking for excuses to go browse what could be new there. The store offers so many incredibly fun, useful, well thought out items that it is hard to convey the depth of what is there without just taking your hand and walking you through Progress.
Con Pane is the kind of place a bread lover in San Diego adores. Catherine Perez, owner and Bread maker in Chief has created a wonderful Artisan Bread and Café place where the guilt of eating these delicious creations does not even enter the premises.
When I arrived in San Diego almost 15 years ago there were 3 things I missed and craved from “home”: a soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside baguette, a creamy camembert and a smooth plain yogurt. Thanks to Catherine, my baguette wish was fulfilled. Her bread creations are varied, classic and yet original and always delicious. I have yet to find one bread she created I do not like. I have many favorites but if I had to choose, I would say the Gruyère (the King of Swiss Cheese if you have not yet tasted it) and Chive, the Whole Wheat Walnut loaf and the Kalamata Olive breads are my absolute favorites! And then of course, there are the sweet creations Catherine has mastered, such as the Belgian Milk Chocolate loaf available only on week-ends, the chocolate brioche twists, the creamy, sticky, unforgettable (all great words in my food description List) cinnamon rolls. The Café also prepares some of the best sandwiches in San Diego. Continue reading