Italian Tradition lives on in North County

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(courtesy photo)

(courtesy photo)

From fresh cooked-to-order-dishes plus an extensive and award-winning wine list to panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, live music, and trademark tiki torches, Cicciotti’s Trattoria Italiana & Seafood is the place in North County to savor authentic Italian food.

This lively and spirited eatery, committed to exceptional service, has been a tradition in Cardiff since 2002. Realizing his boyhood dream, owner, chef and restaurateur Gaetano Cicciotti offers a comfortable atmosphere for casual and affordable dining.

“He has created an oasis, a culinary haven,” said one of his regular customers. “He takes great care in creating memorable evenings for his guests.”

From the moment you enter you feel at home with the greeting of a handshake pulled into an embrace; the kisses for the ladies on the cheek. Cicciotti welcomes customers in a way that you know he values his friendships with patrons. Most evenings, you will find him circulating from table to table; making sure diners are happy and satisfied.

Shrimp Margherite (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Shrimp Margherita (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

As a child growing up in Naples, Italy, he loved to spend time cooking with his mother and grandmother. Surrounded by fresh ingredients, he learned how to cherish old world traditions and nostalgic recipes where aromas and tastes transported your senses to a simpler time and place.

“I fondly remember having Baccalà, one of my grandmother’s recipes. It is a salted cod dish, and even though it is not a Mediterranean fish, it has always been a favorite of Italians,” said Cicciotti. “Another favorite of mine growing up was my mother’s spaghetti alla Carbonara-a classical recipe that’s full of flavor and easy to make.”

Pesto Fettucini with hand-carved 'tomato' rose (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Homemade Pesto Fettucini with hand-carved 'tomato' rose (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Cicciotti takes pride in experimenting with top quality meats and seafood brought in daily as well as fresh produce from the farmer’s market. Great starters include the Antipasto Mediterraneo with Shrimp, crab cakes, fried calamari, and bruschetta with smoked salmon over Gorgonzola cheese or the sautéed Shrimp Margherita in a creamy lobster sauce, served with polenta. Other favorites include the Carpaccio di Manzo; thinly sliced filet mignon topped with arugula, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, capers and shaved Parmigiano and the Calamari alla Sorrentina; sautéed baby calamari with garlic and white wine in a spicy tomato sauce.

Eggplant Cake (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Eggplant Cake (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

I make my own gnocchi at home, but always love it when I can get a nice bowl of these puffy pillows of potato dumplings when I am eating out. I adored the Gnocchi al Gorgonzola served with a Gorgonzola cheese sauce and walnuts. A big fan of pesto, the homemade Fettuccine tossed in a delicious pesto sauce was fabulous. My absolute favorite of the night was the Eggplant cake with fontina cheese and mozzarella in a brandy cream sauce, served with homemade cheese ravioli-well worth the trip alone!

Other luscious pasta dishes that were making their way out of the kitchen were Cannelloni filled with chicken and veal meats, spinach and ricotta cheese, served with besciamella and Bolognese sauce and Lasagna al Forno filled with ricotta cheese, Bolognese sauce and besciamella, topped with mozzarella cheese. The Rigatoni Salsiccia e Melanzane Italian with sausages and eggplant in a tasty tomato sauce with a touch of cream is another pleasant option.

Herb Garden behind the restaurant (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Herb Garden behind the restaurant (photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Poultry, Veal and Seafood entrées are served with fresh vegetables and spaghetti aglio e olio. Try the Pollo ai Fatti Nostri; boneless and skinless chicken breast topped with asparagus, prosciutto and zucchine, finished in a creamy cognac sauce. For an invigorating seafood option, opt for the Gamberoni & Scallops Spiedini consisting of jumbo shrimp and jumbo scallops kabob style grilled and finished in a garlic champagne sauce. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the classic Vitello Parmigiana; breaded veal oven baked with eggplant, mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce.

Refreshing salads and pizzas are perfect for pairing and sharing.  Satisfy your sweet tooth with the Insalata di Mele; spring mix topped with sweet goat cheese, grapes and pecans, tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing served over a bed of apples and shrimp, or the Insalata di Pere with grilled fresh pears, over a bed of arugula and fennel in a balsamic reduction dressing topped with shrimp and sea scallops.

Delicious and innovative pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven. I suggest the popular Pizza Margherita alla Gaetano with fresh tomato sauce, Buffalo mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, XV Olive oil and basil or the Pizza Sorrentina with calamari, clams, mussels, shrimp, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Cicciotti even offers a Calzone con Salsiccia with tomato sauce, mozzarella, Italian sausage and spinach, among other varieties.

cicciotti-book-coverOn August 12th, Gaetano Cicciotti will be releasing his first 96 page, full color cookbook ‘Cicciotti’s Kitchen’ ($25.00) where he shares his Italian classics, restaurant favorites and new creations, showing you how easy they are to make at home.  “It’s using the fresh, simple staples that I grew up with: fish, cheese, pasta, olive oil, tomatoes, onions and basil,” said Cicciotti. “You’ll find all of these ingredients in the recipes throughout the book. Fill your kitchen with the aromas and tastes that I fondly remember and still create today. Give the recipes a try, and see how you can create your own new traditions. Buon Appetito!”

Book signing on August 12th at 5:00 p.m. is free.  The cost of the cookbook is $25 (the purchase of the book includes a $20 gift certificate to Cicciotti’s Trattoria).  Please RSVP to 760.634.2335.

Cicciotti’s Trattoria Italiana & Seafood
1933 San Elijo Avenue
Cardiff by the Sea
Open daily from 11 am to 11 pm
Cicciotti will cater any size event


  • Monday Night — Free Pasta Special, $14 for two
  • Happy Hours — Mon-Thur 5-7 pm, Fri-Sun 4-6 pm
  • Happy Hour Specials — 20% off wood-fired pizza & appetizers
  • Live Music — Thursday-Sunday

Maria Desiderata Montana is an award-winning food and wine journalist, editor, and published author based in San Diego. She gained an appreciation of European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in Calabria, Italy. Visit her website at www.sandiegofoodfinds.com.

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