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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    “Just a short note to thank you and your staff for contributing to a magical evening for my daughter, Heather, and Mike. We will always remember the great food, service and hospitality displayed by your staff and yourself…”
    -Ed Jue