Though it catches a lot of flack for replacing face-to-face interactions, I have social media to thank for some new, incredibly fulfilling friendships with people I otherwise would have never been able to meet (shoutout to Alessandra, Taryn, and Libby!). Aside from being an amazing platform to inspire new people, Instagram has served as an incredible way for me to connect to like-minded individuals across the world.
As many of you already know, I've spent the last couple of weeks in San Diego preparing for my big move to Sydney, Australia (!!). In addition to spending time with family and eating at my favorite restaurants, I also had the opportunity to meet up with some fellow vegan Instagrammers and give a new restaurant a try. Kelly (@kellybone), Robin (@robinsveganlife) and I stopped in to Civico 1845, a quaint Italian restaurant located in the heart of Little Italy.
Civico 1845 is not entirely vegan, but they have a substantial vegan menu with interesting options like the Mushroom "Calamari" and Penne alla Vodka. As is the case with every vegan meet-up, we ordered several things to try. First up was the Mushroom "Calamari" with a fresh tomato sauce for dipping. At first, I was super hesitant to even taste this dish! I'm not a big mushroom fan at all. I suppressed my fungi aversion though and put a forkful of the fried bits in my mouth. To my surprise, it was actually quite tasty! Oyster mushrooms are chopped up into small pieces and fried to crispy perfection. Mushroom fan or not, this appetizer is sure to please anyone. Surprisingly, it was a huge winner in my book!
Our second appetizer were the Piccolo Calzone filled with a seitan ragout and house made vegan mozzarella. While I like the idea of vegan calzones, these were not my favorite. The blend of flavors sounds really delicious, but these just didn't quite meet up to my expectations. Compared to the Mushroom "Calamari," the Piccolo Calzone seemed a bit too simple for a restaurant of this caliber. Civico 1845 is new and the chef told us that the vegan menu is a work in progress, so I have a feeling these will taste better the next time we go in!
For my entree, I ordered the Penne alla Vodka. It's been ten years since I've had a bite of Penne alla Vodka, so I knew I had to order it when I saw it on the menu. I really, really, really enjoyed this plate. It was flavorful and creamy, and the table side, house made parmesan added a little extra "oomph" to an otherwise already delicious meal. I would've loved a couple more spoonfuls of the Pink Vodka Sauce over the pasta because it was so yummy. I also tried a bite of Robin's Eggplant Parmigiana, which was soft and tasty. Kelly's Escarole Pie was interesting and full of flavor. The entrees were definitely a hit.
Being the hungry vegans that we all are, we couldn't leave such a fantastic restaurant without trying their TWO vegan dessert options. It's rare to find a non-vegan restaurant that even offers one plant-based dessert, let alone two! We were stoked to give them both a try. The tiramisu was moist with the perfect balance of chocolatey sweetness and bitterness from the espresso. I'm typically not a chocolate person, so out of the two desserts, the tiramisu was my least favorite. The strawberry lemon cake, on the other hand, was like heaven in cake form. Vanilla cake was layered with a tangy lemon cream and topped with fresh strawberries and a strawberry glaze. Absolute perfection! We all agreed that this was our favorite dessert at Civico 1845.
Overall, my experience at Civico 1845 was a positive one. The restaurant is upscale and nice without being stuffy, and the vegan menu is extensive and carefully thought out. Not to mention, Civico 1845's vegan chef, Pietro Gallo, came over to check in with us multiple times throughout our meal. It was lovely being able to chat with him about his inspiration for the menu. I even got to try speaking in Italian with him a bit (let's just say I need a lot of practice!). Between the Mushroom "Calamari", the Penne alla Vodka, and the Strawberry Lemon Cake, you've got yourself an exceedingly delicious plant-based meal with great service and a personable chef.