Cafe au Gratification

Museum Cafe is low-key, high-return joy

By Karen Kenyon

The Museum Cafe at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla is something new, thanks to Giuseppe Ciuffa who took over last March.

The cafe was opened in 1996 with cafeteria-style service. Now it’s a sit-down cafe, with tables inside and out.

David Base’s painting “Trist,” of a girl swimming, hangs on one wall. The colors are picked up in the teal walls and bright glass vases. From inside the cafe, every window offers an artful view, whether of a pine tree, a palm or the museum entrance with colonnade.

Ciuffa and his partners also own the popular Come On In! Cafe & Bakery on Torrey Pines Road . The Museum Cafe incorporates the best of Come On In! with new dishes, Ciuffa says.

After coming here from Rome to take English classes, Ciuffa fell in love with La Jolla and the ocean. “I am very health-conscious,” he says. “I like the least amount of fat, and I always want to provide the same sort of food I would eat myself. Nothing here is ready-made,” he adds. “We even make the mayonnaise ourselves.”

The most popular salad is the Come On In salad – grilled chicken, caramelized pecans, gorgonzola cheese and green apples over organic greens. “Seventy out of 100 people order it,” Ciuffa says.

Other favorites are the mango quesadilla and the Claire de Lune salad (sirloin, portobello mushrooms and seared asparagus).

And, oh yes, the pasta – how about Linguine alla Greca (with roasted eggplant and feta cheese) or homemade cannelloni?

Breakfast is served on weekends; the Breakfast Burrito and Asparagus Scramble are winners.

Prices range from $3.50 to $11.95.

The Museum Cafe, 700 Prospect St. , (858) 456-6427. Open 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekends.

Karen Kenyon is a La Jolla writer.

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