San Diego may have been largely snubbed for Michelin stars this year despite the bevy of new, notable and really good restaurants, but that hasn't stopped restauranteurs and chefs from opening bigger and bolder concepts. Case in point, Bankers Hill's newest (and fanciest) addition: Il Dandy. Helmed by Michelin starred chefs from Italy, Il Dandy is Italian through and through, impeccably designed, and basically the spot in San Diego right now. The relentless attention to detail – from the menu to the kitchen to the dining room – is all very intentional and aimed at elevating San Diego's dining scene one experience at a time.
Located in the Manchester building (you know it for housing Mister A's), Il Dandy sits just one block from the entrance to Balboa Park and a ten minute walk into Little Italy, the perfect addition to your San Diego itinerary. Some of us from The Venue Report team recently visited Il Dandy and got a special behind the scenes tour of the kitchen, learned more about the design choices and got an inside look at the star of the show: the menu.
Photography by Kimberly Motos and Nathan Mueller for The Venue Report
You could describe any number of restaurants as bright and airy but at Il Dandy, bright and airy means something more. Half of the space's walls are windows – floor-to-ceiling windows – while the rest of the restaurant is bathed in white and accented by blues and greens. The details throughout are obviously luxurious: materials like velvet, marble and brass add depth to the space while whimsical wallpaper and intricate light fixtures bring interest to the otherwise clean and modern venue. Inside tip: You know we love a good bathroom selfie moment, and Il Dandy lives up to our tough mirror pic standards.
Food, the Fancy Italian Way
First things first, the kitchen here is huge, like truly massive. Coming in at 2,300 sq ft, it's the largest (known) kitchen in the city and bigger than most San Diegan's homes. If anyone knows of a bigger kitchen, please let us know in the comments. There's also one of those fancy pizza ovens straight from Italy and a whole lotta room for cooking activities.
Now onto food, Il Dandy's General Manager, Patrick, guided us through the menu, highlighting his favorites and the shining dishes from the chefs. First up was the highly recommended Carpaccio Di Gamberi: spotted prawn, Tropea red onion sorbetto and citrus. We can't exactly put into words how amazing this dish was so you'll just need to try it yourself. And yes, there is red onion sorbet on it and yes, it is delicious. Another starter à la Patrick was the Mozzarella Di Tonno with tuna, burrata, tomato water and basil. Forget what you think this dish is going to be because it's something different, promise. It's artful, delicious, and a must order if you like tuna and burrata, which, who doesn't? For our entree, the Branzino came recommended again and again, so we couldn't say no. Accompanied by mushroom, polenta, mint and herb powder, it was fantastic. And since we're shameless pizza snobs and lovers, we went with the Rustichella with rapini, burrata and Maialino Nero sausage, because (more) burrata.
In short, nothing on the menu is as you would expect it to be – and we're here for it. With each dish, we were shocked and wowed by the creativity of the flavors and presentation. And make sure you leave some room for dessert, it's beyond worth it.
A Private Dining Experience
If sitting with the common folk isn't your thing or maybe you're just celebrating a birthday, have clients in town or are entertaining your discerning family, there's a private dining room that you need to know about. Accepting reservations in the near future, the private dining experience is just that, an experience. There's a separate entrance not accessible from the main dining room, direct kitchen access and complete privacy during your dinner. Of course, the chefs will also create a custom menu not available to the main dining room alongside expertly picked wine pairings. The dining room is sleek and sexy, befitting of the exclusive nature of the experience.
What are you waiting for? Claim your Il Dandy reservation now →