New twist on an old favorite
Creative menu shines at Maretalia, formerly Vigilucci’s
By Samantha Bey
Buon appetito! Maretalia Ristorante has replaced the venerable Vigilucci’s, and while the best of the old is staying, there’s a more adventurous — but still affordable — menu with some major palate pleasers.
Perched above Orange Avenue’s 1300 block bordering Churchill Place, Maretalia’s footprint won’t change much — and it didn’t really need to. You’ll still be greeted by the sculptural water wall, and the popular clubby lounge and bar area remains the in-spot for the happy hour crowd, where pianists Marilyn Rees and Jim Bianchi really round out the vibe. You can still dine al fresco on its central patio, but there’s a whole new world of taste sensations you simply must try.
The restaurant is now owned by Blue Bridge Hospitality Group, which operates a number of Coronado establishments, including Stake Chophouse and Bar, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge, Lil’ Piggy’s Bar-B-Q and Mootime Creamery. Dubbed “Modern Coastal Italian” the restaurant’s name is a blending of mare (the sea) and Italia (Italy). Blue Bridge has retained Vigilucci’s chef, Marco Sedda, who hails from Florence, Italy. He and Blue Bridge executive chef Tim Kolanko have come up with a menu full of flavor and texture combinations that are nothing short of artful. On a recent date there, my husband and I tried a number of the new dishes; we left intent on returning soon.
Let’s start with bruschetta. There are three varieties on the menu. The Avocado & Crab Bruschetta ($11) comes on perfectly toasted bread piled high with creamy avocado, noticeably fresh shredded crab meat, and topped with a thin slice of radish and pickled red and yellow peppers. This dish was sweet, spicy, salty and savory all at once, and the variety of texture between each element was so satisfying.
There’s also a lovely combo of creamy buratta with peach and prosciutto ($9.50) and a classic bruschetta with tomato, garlic and basil ($8). Can’t decide? You can get one of each for $10. All three bruschetta selections, plus 14 other antipasti dishes ranging from $10 to $16 are half price during “social hour,” offered daily from 3 to 6:30 p.m.
The Tuscan truffle fries ($10) are served as potato wedges fried to golden perfection. They’re not too heavy: superbly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside and elevated with melted, shaved boschetto cheese and herbs sprinkled on top. And during social hour you can get one of Maretalia’s moist and flavorful meatballs simmered in a signature marinara sauce for just $3. It’s a lot of bang for your (three) bucks.
Also during social hour, house wines and well drinks are $6, craft beers are $5, and original and craft cocktails are $8. The classic Manhattan is a generous serving of Buffalo Trace bourbon and Antica sweet vermouth with a brandied cherry garnish. The bourbon and cherries make it a tad on the sweet side, but it’s boozy and well-balanced.
In the diver scallop carpaccio appetizer ($15), scallops — flown in fresh from Maine — and zucchini come thinly sliced and topped with pistachio breadcrumbs, Calabrian chilies and lemon juice. The pistachio crunch was a perfect counterpoint to the softness of the scallop and was beautifully accented with the zesty bursts of chili flavor and fresh lemon. Dining out is a lot more fun when the dishes pull together ingredients few would think to experiment with at home. Pistachio, zucchini and scallops? Who knew?
Much of the menu’s bright flavors come from the freshness of ingredients. According to Maretalia’s manager, Nick Lorenz, the dishes are produce-driven and seasonal. Kolanko scours local farmers markets every Thursday through Sunday, carefully selecting the very best. The contorni (side dish) section of the menu offers five seasonal vegetable dishes prepared in interesting ways, such as Brussels sprouts roasted with balsamic vinegar, hazelnut and rosemary ($9).
The new menu is also dedicated to sustainability and fresh seafood (both the blue fin tuna and the swordfish on the current menu are caught locally).
The diver scallops ($29) came gorgeously seared over a bed of roasted corn, risotto, cherry tomatoes, and asparagus — so colorful, it was almost too pretty to eat! The risotto is mixed with a puree of sweet corn rather than butter, rendering it sweeter and lighter overall. It was rich without being overwhelming, which complemented the medley of bright vegetable flavors and salty scallops. A rosé made with Nebbiolo grapes was the perfect accompaniment — light and very dry with a touch of strawberry on the finish.
Though the emphasis is on seafood, the menu also offers classic Italian pasta dishes. Both half and full plate options are available, which allows diners to try more selections without overfilling — or breaking the budget (four of the nine half-plate pasta dishes are only $14). All pastas are made fresh in-house from artisan Italian flour sourced by Kolanko. The noodles in the Bolognese dish had a nice firmness, which held up under the rich, creamy veal, beef and pork ragu sauce.
For a zesty finish, try the house-made crema limoncello (it comes on-the-house). Limoncello, the celebrated Italian after-dinner drink made from lemons, sugar and vodka, is mixed with heavy cream and fermented for a month. It’s very sweet but the lemon is a lovely palate cleanser.
With a generous social hour, understatedly elegant ambiance and menu offerings of classic Italian and seafood dishes, Maretalia strikes all the right chords. And the adventurous flavors and textures of the uniquely crafted dishes sing.