busalacchi’s a modo mio / hillcrest – san diego, ca

Busalacchi’s is a pretty well known name around here in San Diego and recently I had the opportunity to visit Busalacchi’s A Modo Mio in Hillcrest for “a modo mio” week – or “my way” – where the chef calls the shots for dinner service. Guests get to choose what kind of entree they want (chicken, red meat, fish or vegetarian) and chef Joe Busalacchi takes care of the rest. It’s a fun and adventurous way to dine and you get to taste a little bit of everything that a restaurant has to offer.

This was the appetizer samplers laid out before Stacey and I for our first course. No messing around here. There’s a little bit of everything, including some complimentary bread with a bruschetta topping (which was incredibly flavorful for something that just looked like tomatoes in a cup).

[garbanzo croquettes]

These little fried croquettes were made out of garbanzo beans and pressed into this square shape. I thought they looked kind of weird and spongy, but they were actually a little crisp on the outside and kind of creamy in the middle (and really not spongy whatsoever). I’ve never seen garbanzos prepared like this before!

[pickled veggies plate with artichoke, olives, mushrooms, sardines, cheese and prosciutto]

We also got this little plate of mostly pickled things. I personally don’t like pickled anything so I was feeling very adventurous with this plate. I did try the mushroom but I didn’t care for it – the marinade made it taste off to me, but like I said… no pickled stuff for me. Prosciutto was fine, a tad salty though.

[pizza bread]

For some reason I have no notes about this except “pizza bread” and “flavorful”.

Clearly I need to take better notes.

[eggplant parmesan]

This dish actually surprised me because I don’t usually like eggplant. But this dish I ended up really liking it and – funny enough – didn’t taste at all to me like eggplant. I just tasted a very flavorful, rich and herby sauce with plenty of basil. The eggplant was tender and just soaked up the flavor of the sauce so I was really astounded I liked it!


Since Stacey doesn’t eat seafood, I got to have this plate all to myself. Wonderfully seasoned calamari, I would marry you if I could. The batter on this version is light and crispy, well seasoned and perfectly fried. The batter did not take away from the deliciousness of the calamari and is one of the better versions I’ve had of this dish.

[frisee pomegranate salad with arugula and pumpkin seeds]

This salad had frisee and arugula in it – and yet I still liked it! The combination of flavors and textures just made this whole salad really shine – from the crunchy bits of pumpkin seeds to the brightness of the pomegranates to the sweetness of the dressing balanced with the peppery arugula. Really packed with flavor and it was pretty and artful.

[dungeness crab angel hair pasta]

Stacey and I got to choose what kind of pasta we wanted – I went with the seafood pasta and she went with the vegetarian. I had actually had a similar sample of this one during Taste of Hillcrest, though it was prepared a little differently then. This one is made with angel hair pasta and had dungeness crab in a creamy, rich tomato sauce. The crab was a nice contrast with the sauce.

[broccolini pesto pasta]

Stacey’s Broccolini Pesto was also a very delicious dish. I haven’t seen this one on a menu before, either. The broccolini is cut into bite size pieces with a good amount of pesto to cover the spaghetti. A good amount of Parmesan was grated on the spot for her dish. Good amount of bite and seasonings, I would totally eat at this another time.

[chicken & herbs]

For main meal, we could choose from either chicken or veal. Stacey, who has moral objections to veal, went with the roasted chicken with herbs. The meat was very tender and juicy and had a good punch of flavor from the herbs and seasonings.

[veal with cheese, gravy and sage]

I don’t have moral objections to veal and I ordered that. I got nice, thinly sliced veal covered in cheese and gravy with sage leaves. The “gravy” and pan sauce on top was packed with flavor. The cheese was smooth and melted and the sage leaves gave it a little hint of sage flavor throughout the sauce. Very tender slices.

[cannoli with hazelnut truffle]

Oh man… dessert was totally my favorite part. Honestly, dessert usually is my favorite part but these cannoli’s were amazing. The cream filling was perfectly smooth and just slightly sweet with a sprinkle of chocolate chips mixed into the creamy filling. The outer shell was very thick and crisp and resulted in the perfect bite. The truffle (which was half a truffle) was filled with hazelnut cream… and I just about died from happiness. It was so good that when the manager asked us how it was, I kind of gushed a little and said it was one of the best I’d ever had… and he asked if we wanted another one. I quickly said yes, and he high-fived me and got us another plate of dessert and I experienced heaven all over again… oh my.

Chef Busalacchi will again be doing things “his way” on New Year’s Eve with a special 5-course ($59 per person) or 4-course ($49 per person) dinner service. You can choose from chicken, red meat, fish, or vegetarian for this special New Year’s Eve meal, which also includes one glass of champagne for this special occasion.

Disclaimer: My meal was complimentary and paid for by the restaurant. I was invited on behalf of i.d.e.a. I was not paid for this review and all opinions, as always, are my own.

Busalacchi’s A Modo Mio
3707 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 298-0119

Busalacchi's a modo mio on Urbanspoon


mary likes baking.

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