isa.bella artisan pizzeria / clairemont – san diego, ca
I couldn’t decide where we should go for our anniversary. With our upcoming trip to Florida (we leave Sunday!!!), we’ve been trying to cut back a little on eating out to save money for the trip. I suggested that I should make dinner to which Jake replied, “You always make dinner. Why don’t I make it?” A day or so later he suggested we check out Isa.bella Pizzeria since a) I mentioned there was a LivingSocial deal for it, b) then he wouldn’t have to think up something to make and c) it was dog friendly so Maya could come with us!
We first noticed this place while heading over to the Fruit Stand on Morena Blvd. I like picking up local fruit here (like locally grown melons, strawberries, oranges and veggies). There was a big banner that said they were dog friendly and had a happy hour special that included a free pizza (if you order a pitcher of beer). This piqued our interest! Then I spotted a deal for $10 for $20 on LivingSocial and after Jake suggested we go here for our anniversary, I bought it.
Dog Friendly! For reals!
We went through the doggie entrance. The gate doesn’t shut all of the way so I was a little worried Maya might decide to run into the parking lot so we kept her on leash for awhile until realizing she wasn’t going anywhere without us.
There was no one else on the back patio so we let Maya roam around. No one seemed to mind that she was wandering around and our very cool waiter, Juan, even brought out a doggie bowl of water for her! Sweetness! She snuggled on the couch with us, roamed around and sniff stuff and was generally just happy to be there.
We sat here next to the fire. There were two big couches out here with cool strings of light. It was a big windy and cold that night so Jake brought me my jacket and he grabbed a blanket from the car to keep warm. While eating and taking photos, one our napkins totally blew into the flames and caught on fire and I freaked out thinking it would blow away and catch something else on fire and it’d be our fault we burned down a restaurant. I got a fork and stabbed the flaming napkin and swatted it until it went out.
Woo, fork stabbing putting out fire skills!
[garlic wings – fried chicken wings coated with spicy ginger-garlic sauce / $7]
It was quite dark out on the patio so I was convinced none of my photos would turn out but Jake did the “cell phone light trick” for me (where he used the flashlight setting on his phone through a napkin) so I could snap some better photos. This is why he’s a keeper: he helps me take my foodie photos.
The garlic wings were the first thing we agreed on to try. The wings are fried and have a light coating/batter. The wings are super crunchy and the light batter helped to keep the chicken nice and moist on the inside. There is garlic tossed on top but it’s not a ton and then it’s tossed in a spicy ginger-garlic sauce (which tasted a lot like Thai sweet chili sauce). The wings with the garlic and sauce made them particularly delicious and Jake and I ended up really, really liking these. I don’t think they are very garlicky though – but the combination of the wings with the sauce made me not care that they weren’t super garlicky. It’s more like a hint! A delicious hint!
[fried mac n cheese balls – panko-crusted, golden fried, served over marinara & sharp provolone cream, dotted with house-made pesto–like mama used to make–but not at all! / $7]
Jake and I love macaroni and cheese and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try this out either! I couldn’t tell this was a provolone cream until I ate it but it had a nice sharp creaminess that I loved. I wasn’t as into the marinara here – just cheese cream sauce for me, please!
Once we split it open, it looked a heck of a lot like Kraft mac n cheese, but Juan assured us that it was NOT Kraft. I’m not trying to knock on Kraft since I totally eat the stuff but hey – you must admit – it TOTALLY looks like Kraft. It was nice and cheesy and had an awesome outer crunch from the panko crust. I loved that little dot of pesto as well for another little kick of flavor (I kind of wished there was a pile of it in the corner, too, so I could swish it into the cheesy cream sauce). Really yummy overall, I wasn’t disappointed with this choice either.
[untraditional meatball pizza – red base, homemade meatball, fresh basil, sea salt, dotted with ricotta / $13]
We had like a pizza themed anniversary this year since we went with another pizza dish to celebrate our seven years of bliss (har har).
First of all – I love their pizza dough. They use flour imported from Naples, Italy and the crust turns out to be light, airy, crispy on the bottom and slightly chewy. It reminded me a lot of the dough from Napizza in Little Italy. This is a pizza where you definitely want to fight over the crust pieces since they’re so yummy!
Jake loved the basil on this which gave it a really bright flavor. They sprinkled it on after it came out of the oven, too, so the basil wouldn’t get all weirdly brown and wilted.
As for the toppings/sauce… I felt like it lacked a bit of seasonings. The meatball definitely was under seasoned and putting a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top helped immensely to give it a bit of the saltiness it needed – but I still felt like something was missing, but I’m not sure what. Overall I still enjoyed the pizza though – especially the yummy crust!
[caramel apple empanada / $6.50]
Juan told us about this amazing sounding butterfinger pie only to find out they were OUT OF IT. *audible sigh* He apologized but I wasn’t really that mad. Instead we got this dessert empanada which is made with the same dough they use for the pizza – so of course I loved the crust. It was a bit crispier and golden than it’s pizza cousin and equally as yummy. This was filled with diced apples which were okay, mostly I just liked the crust and caramel sauce. Heck, you could just fill this with caramel like those empanadas they sell at the Mexican bakery and I’d be pretty damn happy.
Jake and I were pretty happy overall with this meal and definitely plan on making a return visit to try out more of the menu! And probably get more wings…
I like this photo of Jake and Maya since it looks like Maya is talking to him away from the camera.
After like, five takes this was the best shot. It was an amazing and delicious night that I spent with my baby and my little dog! Total happiness! Here’s to another year with my boyfriend, my best friend, my love. Happy anniversary, Jake!
Isa.Bella Artisan Pizzeria
4011 Avati Drive
San Diego, CA 92117