DINING GUIDE – Italian Master

Culinary artist brings a touch of Rome to La Jolla museum

By Maria Desiderata Montana

the buzz

THE MUSEUM CAFE: By Giuseppe Fine Catering, 700 Prospect St. , La Jolla ; (858) 456-6427. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

THE FOOD: Colorful and healthful Italian breakfast and lunch items with a tropical touch.

THE SCENE: Stylish cafe adjacent to the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla .

THE BOTTOM LINE: Entrees, salads and sandwiches $8 to $12.

DON’T MISS: Mediterranean Omelet, Mexican Papaya and Shrimp Salad, Pan-Seared Artichoke Sandwich .

At the Museum Cafe at La Jolla ‘s Museum of Contemporary Art , the fresh Italian fare is its own work of art.

The patio has a Roman theme, complete with white columns and ivy-covered trellises. In the cozy interior, diners are surrounded by a rotating selection of art pieces, including a chandelier made of macaroni.

AdvertisementOwner Giuseppe Ciuffa was born and raised in Ferrara , Italy , and later lived in Rome . He explained how, when he was a child, his mother taught him lessons about food and life.

“Even when I got into trouble, my mom believed in giving me a productive punishment,” he said. “She would have me trim the ends off the green beans, make tortellini or pick olives. I thank her for that today, because she made me what I am.”

Ciuffa came to San Diego in 1994 and gained extensive restaurant experience. He started out as a bartender and waiter. He is also the former owner of Come On In Cafe & Bakery on Torrey Pines Road.

“I learned to speak English from talking to my customers,” Ciuffa said.

Breakfast, served on Saturday and Sunday, might consist of a large fresh-squeezed orange juice ($3.25) and a Mediterranean Omelet – two eggs scrambled with fresh basil, feta cheese and tomatoes ($8.95)

On the sweet side is the full stack of blueberry pancakes with Vermont maple syrup and European butter ($6).

The lunch offerings are creative, colorful and seasonally based. Since Ciuffa is also a triathlete, his creations reflect his taste for healthful cuisine. He also gives his dishes a tropical touch.

“People think papaya and mango aren’t served in Italy , but they are,” he said.

The cool and spicy Mexican Papaya and Shrimp Salad features grilled papaya wedges, feta cheese crumbles and Florida tiger shrimp over a bed of romaine hearts with a cumin vinaigrette ($11.95).

Sandwiches are made with artisan bread from Bread & Cie. Vegetarians can tuck into the Pan-Seared Artichoke Sandwich, with sweet onions, sun-dried tomatoes, olive tapenade and melted Manchego cheese on ciabatta, accompanied by a field-green salad ($9.95).

The Roasted Chicken Waldorf is actually a sandwich – chicken breast tossed with mayonnaise, toasted pecans and Granny Smith apples on whole-grain bread ($9.95).

Craving red meat? The Angus Roast Beef Sandwich, served on ciabatta, is jazzed up with truffle aioli, caramelized onions, gorgonzola spread and ripe tomatoes ($8.95).

For a sweet conclusion, pair a frothy cappuccino and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a hunk of white chocolate on top ($4.95).

Italian coffee drinks, lemonade, ice tea and wine are offered. On weekends, mimosas and bloody marys are served. Catering is available ( www.giuseppecatering.com .)

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  • What They Say

    David and I wanted to let you know how wonderful last nights party and you all were. We loved starting outdoors with you and your team bringing to life our new pizza kitchen. It's the first time since November that I've been able to enjoy it as a guest instead of the chef and waitress.

    We really enjoy and appreciate all of your team members - they are truly the A-Team and we feel like you are all family. Please let them know how we feel.

    Many Thanks,
    Patsy