San Diego
1. Cesarina
Point Loma

This Point Loma trattoria exudes cozy-cool vibes and big-time flavor throughout its menu, thanks to chef Cesarina Mezzoni’s prowess for all-in Italian cooking. Pasta is the highlight here, and Mezzoni and team make it daily in-house, inviting guests to build their own by choosing any of the noodles and from-scratch sauces (including several vegan options, like eggless pasta and plant-based sauces). The ambiance here is as memorable as the food, with a glass-paneled “pastificio” and its shelves of preserved fruits and vegetables, green leather booths, and Thonet-inspired bistro seating. The patio is just as dreamy, reading as a quaint Italian garden, complete with lush greenery, hanging plants, and Lady and the Tramp vibes.

2. Jeune et Jolie

Those craving a French getaway without the price tag and PTO will do well with a trip to this Michelin-starred restaurant, where chef Eric Bost serves a menu rooted in French nouvelle cuisine that reflects the region’s seasons. Diners select their preferred plates for a four-course menu—in the company of a date, opt for different picks so as to enjoy it all (take, for example, the scallops with butternut squash and toasted pepitas, or the Miel, a dessert highlighting several variations of local honey). Though the food is next-level, the design is just as destination-worthy: Crushed velvet banquettes, pink marble tabletops, and pastel blue greens welcome diners, along with a horseshoe-shaped bar and its absinthe tower centerpiece. Do take advantage of the sprawling patio and its St. Tropez vibes, made possible by terrazzo tabletops, verdant greenery, and an ace score of French tunes.

3. The Marine Room
La Jolla

Opened in 1941, this La Jolla restaurant has become a fine dining institution for its oceanside views and high-caliber menus. Chef Mike Minor helms the kitchen, emphasizing sustainable seafood, responsible sourcing, and seasonality across the board, regularly rotating out menu items to reflect the region’s best finds. Book in the main dining room for a classic experience, with pristine plates like Baja California swordfish or Pacifico seabass, or snag seats in the recently reimagined lounge for a medley of globally inspired small plates, such as jamón Ibérico toast, Moroccan lamb lollipops, and Japanese A5 nigiri. Regardless of where you reserve, you can look forward to the unbeatable oceanfront sunset views.

4. Marisi
La Jolla

Hearth cooking and handmade pasta take center stage at this La Jolla restaurant, which was born out of a family’s love for Italian cuisine and hospitality. Locals line up for elevated classics from chef Chad Huff, be it the pear and almond burrata, wagyu carpaccio, or decadent truffle tagliatelle (hand-rolled with Piedmont truffles)—and don’t miss dessert. Mascarpone panna cotta with devil’s food ganache and coffee streusel come together for the Coffee & Cream, a natural accompaniment to the team’s proprietary-blend espresso. With lattes-in-hand, it’s easy to linger a while here—a 10-foot brick and tiled Italian hearth, seersucker banquettes, and vintage art prints all channel Amalfi-inspired living, as does an expansive, sun-drenched patio that’s perfect for warmer months.

5. Starlite

Slip through the iconic hexagonal entry into one of the luxurious black leather banquettes at Starlite, Middletown’s retro-cool hot spot. The twinkling starburst over the rectangular bar and strategically lit stacked stone walls cast flattering light over everything, making it just dim enough to cover a covert kiss or two. Their signature mules, either classic or made Kentucky Colonel-style with Buffalo Trace Bourbon and cherry vanilla bitters, are popular choices from the solid cocktail menu that leans toward the strong and spirit-forward. The menu leans hard into modern comfort food like mac and cheese, a juicy burger and crispy shoestring fries, or lush roasted bone marrow, plus updated fare such as Chickpea Battered Greens, Buffalo Fried Cauliflower, and Seeded Peanut “Meat” Tostadas. For those who had a first date or harbor fond memories here, experience the last Valentine's Day with its original look. Come mid-March, design firm Bells & Whistles will revamp the venue.


Perched high on a bluff at Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, VAGA Restaurant and Bar provides stunning views, from its dramatic open kitchen to expansive ocean sunsets. The menu fuses diverse cultures by using local ingredients from Chino Farms and Cyclops Farms and infusing them with heirloom flavors captured during her extensive travels. The bar program features rotating signature cocktails, local microbrews, and a dynamic wine list highlighting natural wines with grapes from low-intervention/biodynamic vineyards. There’s an argument to be made for brunch as well, the menu is simpler and shorter, but the views are just as spectacular.

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