Pam Kragen writes about Semola. This weekend, the Milanese trio behind the popular Pacific Beach pizzeria Ambrogio15 will open a new restaurant that its owners hope will encourage San Diegans to not only re-examine Italian cooking but also the concept of fine dining.
Semola, the Ambrogio15 Gastronomy Project will open Saturday evening in the former PrepKitchen restaurant space at 7556 Fay Ave. in La Jolla. The menu — featuring mostly locally sourced ingredients — will mix contemporary pasta dishes created by a Michelin-starred chef in Italy, with gastronomic influences from Argentina, Japan and South Korea. With six chefs and initially just 35 outdoor seats, Semola will offer a fine dining experience at market prices, according to Giacomo Pizzigoni, who co-founded the Milano Five Group in 2016 with partners Andrea Burrone and Luca Salvi.
“Italian cuisine in San Diego has been butchered. We want to show what Italy is right now,” Pizzigoni said. “This will be fine gastronomy in a casual setup. We’re not doing crazy stuff with the food, we’re just elevating it.”
Although the pandemic wasn’t great for Milano Five Group’s ventures at the Little Italy Food Hall, Pizzigoni said it did help the company redefine its place in the San Diego restaurant community. In December, the group closed one of its booths at the Little Italy Hall, the first iteration of Semola, a quick-service pasta bar that struggled to succeed with the repeated pandemic-related shutdowns and loss of tourism.
Meanwhile, the Ambrogio15 location in Pacific Beach had its best year ever, with the community embracing the neighborhood eatery that in 2020 expanded its outdoor seating and its menu to include some cutting-edge takes on pizza. Pizzigoni said both experiences taught him and his partners that the low-end, express route was not the direction they want to move.
Early last year, they signed a consulting partnership with Silvio Salmoiraghi, who helms the Michelin-starred Ristorante Acquerello, a modern Italian restaurant just outside of Milan. Salmoiraghi was a protégé of the late Gualtiero Marchesi, the Milanese chef known as the founder of modern Italian cuisine. Since 2003, Salmoiraghi has launched two Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe.
The team behind San Diego’s expanding Ambrogio15 restaurant group unveiled their newest dining concept Ciao Ciao Piadina, an Italian speciality sandwich restaurant and aperitivo focused natural wine bar set that opened in La Jolla on April 1.
Milan-turned-San Diego residents Giacomo Pizzigoni, Andrea Burrone and Luca Salvi opened the flagship Ambrogio15 on Turquoise Street in San Diego’s North Pacific Beach community in August 2016. The team expanded in 2018 with a stall within the Little Italy Food Hall and also has plans in place for a micro-version of Ambrogio15 to debut within Del Mar Highlands Town Center‘s incoming, 20,000 square-foot, multi-restaurant food hall called The Sky Deck. The Ambrogio boys have no plans on slowing down and will also be launching Semola The Ambrogio15 Pasta Bar in the former PrepKitchen space in La Jolla later this this year.
Ciao Ciao Piadina will open in partnership with longtime friends of the Ambrogio team, Francesco Burnazzi and Lauren Turton. The group has redesigned the 1,200-square-foot space that last housed Poke Go on Pearl Street in La Jolla to have a playful interior space with a pink bar, fun murals and pink velvet booths, as well as outdoor patio seating, perfect for Aperitivo. The menu is centered around piadina, which is an Italian flatbread sandwich from the region of Emilia-Romagna. Expect a variety of sandwiches like the #1 with Parma prosciutto, crescenza cheese and baby arugula, and the #4 with red beet hummus, vegan mozzarella, grilled veggies and balsamic reduction. The menu will be rounded out with a variety of salads, sides like Italian poke and vegetable crudités, and dessert items like a pink canoli and tiramisu panna cotta.
The team is now ready to welcome you to their new venture, for Aperitivo and Piadina in this picturesque instagram friendly decor.
The glorious tradition of aperitivo, the Italian custom of whiling away an afternoon or evening with a glass of vino in hand and some complimentary snacks from the bar, has arrived in downtown La Jolla via Ciao Ciao Piadina, which opens this Thursday, April 1 on Pearl Street. The team behind the highly-anticipated bar and social club includes the owners of Ambrogio15 pizzeria, which is soon expanding to Del Mar Highlands, and Semola, their fast-casual pasta spot that’s reopening next month in the former Prepkitchen La Jolla space.
At Ciao Ciao Piadena, the stretch between 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. will be dedicated to aperitivo, offering $29 or $39 sets that include one drink plus unlimited free finger foods and small bites like olives, bruschetta, and imported meats and cheeses. Additional drinks, from natural and biodynamic wines including a private label prosecco to a range of spritzes, can be ordered a la carte along with any plates off the daytime menu, which centers around flatbread sandwiches called piadina, one of the official food products of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, as well as salads and other light snacks.
The 1,200-square-foot restaurant and bar, which will have both indoor and outdoor seating, plans to eventually extend its hours to include a breakfast menu of coffee and Italian pastries.
San Diego’s best-known Italian restaurateur trios are unveiling new culinary projects this week. The Milanese trio who launched Ambrogio15 pizzeria in Pacific Beach in 2016 have three new projects this spring: Ciao Ciao Piadina, an aperitivo/sandwich wine bar they’re opening today with two partners, as well as a reinvention of their Semola pasta bar concept in La Jolla and a more upscale Ambrogio15 location in Del Mar.
Ciao Ciao Piadina is billed as a “social club,” where diners can enjoy a new take on the traditional Italian aperitivo service — pre-dinner drinks and unlimited appetizers — as well as piadina, which are the famous toasted flatbread sandwiches from the Italian coastal city of Rimini.
In mid-to-late April, the Ambrogio15 trio will open the new Semola, an elevated Milanese-style sit-down restaurant in the former PrepKitchen space at 7556 Fay Ave. in La Jolla. The partners originally launched Semola in 2019 as a quick-service pasta booth at the Little Italy Food Hall. But Pizzigoni said the experience convinced them that they’re not fast-food purveyors, so they closed the booth last fall.
The new restaurant, which will seat about 30 to 35 patio diners initially, will have a menu developed by Michelin-starred Italian chef Silvio Salmoiraghiand Italian gastronome Paolo Tucci. Head chef will be Daniela Martinez, formerly of Il Dandy and Ironside. Pizzigoni said the menu will feature modern Italian pasta dishes and entrees like veal Milanese that incorporate seasonal local ingredients at affordable prices.
On May 27, a new incarnation of Ambrogio15 pizzeria will open at the Sky Deck, a 20,000-square-foot upscale food hall a the Del Mar Highlands Town Center at 12925 El Camino Real in Carmel Valley. The 55-seat, indoor/outdoor restaurant, designed to resemble Milan’s Piazza del Duomo, will offer pizzas that Pizzigoni hopes will revolutionize pizza-making in California, if not the U.S. Semola’s menu developer, Salmoiraghi, has also created the recipes for the new Ambrogio15, that will combine unique doughs with gourmet, seasonal toppings. The restaurant will have its own sommelier.