opera tunes and dining at operacaffe in downtown san diego
I haven’t had much experience with Opera. When I was in high school, I took a class called “Theory of Knowledge” and our teacher, Mr. Icardo, required us to go to a few of the dress rehearsals for the Opera down at the Civic Center as a part of the class… to open up ourselves to things beyond what we were used to, I suppose. As a 16 year old, I sure didn’t regard it with much enthusiasm, but I did attend… even if I fell asleep once… don’t tell anyone, okay?
My experience and knowledge of opera is quite limited, is what I’m really trying to say here. But recently I was invited to dine at Operacaffe and I just happened to go on the third Tuesday of the month… which is Opera Night!
There were two singers, Rosario Monetti (left) and Cherylyn Larson who sang a various collection of beautiful songs.
Laura, who’s birthday took place just a couple of days after this visit, was in tow with me and we heard a few Christmas tunes as well as famous songs in Italian… though, I couldn’t remember the names of the songs in English, I did recognize a few of the tunes. The two singers sang as different times throughout the evening, each singing a song or two before taking a break. They didn’t stay on the stage either, but instead chose to roam down among the diners, belting out their beautiful tunes.
I took a couple of videos on my iPhone, so you can have a small taste of what Opera Night is about:
I didn’t know this one, but it was still pretty!
Can you recognize the tune on this one, even if it’s in Italian?
We also did a round of the “12 Days of Christmas” – Laura and I’s line was “Three French Hens!” which we shouted out whenever it was out turn, and giggled afterwards almost every time. I’m not a singer at all, but it was still fun to play along with the whole restaurant who chimed in for the song.
In between all of the music, we did get to eat some food! Here’s the complimentary bread.
And here’s something you have seen me order time and time again. I love calamari. So sue me.
This one had a lovely marinara sauce served with it – that was served pipping hot (I love that). The calamari had a wonderful batter – not too heavy or thick – that allowed you to still taste and enjoy the flavor of the calamari.
[tavolozza di antipasti]
We also got this Tavolozza di Antipasti recommended by our server – a little sampler platter of their various appetizers. From the top left – bruschetta, coccoli, arancini and on the far right I didn’t remember the name… but it’s roasted endive with some kind of pungent cheese. Laura and I both thought that the bruschetta need a touch of olive oil or something else to really make it shine… the tomatoes were not as fresh as they could be, but seeing as it’s winter, I will forgive them. The roasted endive was not my favorite either, since it had a bitter aftertaste that I did not enjoy.
The arancini, which is a deep fried rice ball stuffed with mozzarella cheese, was one of the better items in the appetizer plate. It needed a tiny extra hint of seasoning but was otherwise good – the rice was creamy along with the melted cheese.
My favorite though was the I Coccoli: fried pizza dough, stracchino and mascarpone cheese and wrapped in prosciutto di parma. The bread was soft and warm, with the cheese melting and oozing into the bread with the saltiness of the prosciutto to offer up a perfect couple of bites.
[la pera pazza salad]
We also shared this Pear Salad, which came with a cut up pear, watercress, gorgonzola, walnuts, lemon and topped with a honey dressing.
[there should be cheese stuffed in there]
Laura doesn’t like blue cheese of any kind, so we got the gorgonzola on the side. Normally they would stuff it into the cavity of the pear along with the watercress and walnuts. I added the gorgonzola to my plate with practically every bite, since I thought the gorgonzola was delicious dreamy and a nice salty, creamy texture to go along with the sweetness of the pear and the crunch of the walnuts. All around a very fun salad to eat! Kind of makes me want to put pears in my salad, too.
[saltinbocca alla romana]
This is Laura’s meal – veal medallions topped with mozzarella cheese, sage and proscuitto in a white wine sauce, with a side of asparagus and risotto.
I had a small bite of the tender veal and a little bit of the risotto – which, incidentally, had way too much saffron in it. Like, overpowering amount. Oh well. The rest of it was to Laura’s taste, as the veal was tender and flavorful with the mozzarella and proscuitto in the mix.
[penne alla kika]
As for me, I got the Penne alla Kika (“kika” cracked me up for some reason) which came with shrimp, manila clams and white wine in a creamy sauce. It was kind of like having clam sauce – but with shrimp also in the mix, and a creamier sauce. I was very happy with my dish – the seasonings and flavors were spot on and it had a lovely creamy flavor!
[torta della nonna]
Dessert was not skipped on my watch. Laura and I each chose one thing from the dessert menu and shared. I opted for the Torta della Nonna – a Bavarian cream tort with pine nuts. The tort was slightly warm and filled with the Bavarian cream – which had a slight lemon flavor to it that I really, really liked. The pine nuts are all on top, covered in powdered sugar and added an almost buttery crunch to the whole dish. Really yummy, it was my favorite of the two desserts that we tried.
Laura, the birthday girl, chose this frozen dessert – kind of the complete opposite of what I chose! This is a Tartufo Nero – which has a zabaion cream in the middle covered by chocolate cream and decorated with chopped hazelnuts and cocoa powder.
Here you can see the Zabaione center along with the chocolate. I love seeing the Zabaione surrounded by the chocolate. Very rich dessert, I kind of abandoned it in favor of my Torta. Turned out well though, since Laura seemed to prefer this one to the one I choose.
I had mentioned it was Laura’s birthday, so someone did come by when we were almost done with dessert, stuck a candle in the rest of her dessert and the two opera singers sang happy birthday to her! It was a very special and sweet way to end the evening – how many people can say they’ve had opera singers sing to them before? Much prettier rendition than what you’d get at Applebee’s, that’s for sure.
All in all it was a great night – and we left happy and filled with delicious Italian food and memories of music that really is quite beautiful.
Operacaffe holds their “Opera Nights” on the third Tuesday of each month at no extra charge to patrons.
835 4th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary meal for visiting the restaurant. I was not paid for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.