By ROBIN DOHRN-SIMPSON
Carol Tolosko created Centifonti Restaurant as a nod to her great grandfather Cosmo Centifonti who immigrated with his wife Carmela, in the late 1800s from Abruzzi, Italy to Burlington, New Jersey. Cosmo started his “One Stop Shop” — a delicatessen, with an ice cream parlor, candy store, smoking lounge and a bar. Tolosko wished to emulate the concept with her own eatery located in the Village of La Mesa.
Centifonti is a restaurant with an eclectic menu of Italian and Californian favorites — something for everyone, children and adults. You’ll find a bar featuring 25 craft beers on tap, a gelateria and also a candy store.
Carol and her daughter are fourth and fifth generation chocolatiers who make their own chocolate goodies. Carol’s mother, until recently, made the candy and caramel apples so loved by patrons.
The house-made gelato is a specialty that Stacey Robinson takes very seriously. He loves to experiment with flavors and follows the philosophy “something unique sells”. The fig, cinnamon, walnut and whiskey gelato is a favorite. Full of unique yet compatible flavors that make the mouth beg for more. After sampling a variety of the gelatos, the chocolate was definitely another favorite — very rich and creamy.
The restaurant, which is open daily, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A unique breakfast favorite is the Southwest Breakfast Bowl. This is a bread bowl filled with Centifonti potatoes (red potatoes with red and green bell peppers and onions) smothered in house-made chili, two eggs any style, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado and sprinkled with cheddar and cotija cheese. If this isn’t enough, you can have it topped with chipotle cream.
If you prefer a sweeter meal, try the French toast with thick Texas toast dipped in a custard batter flavored with Amaretto, cinnamon and vanilla sprinkled with sliced almonds and grilled to a golden brown.
For a healthy alternative try their house-made granola with a mixture of grains, nuts, seeds and raisins, sweetened with honey. Cover with your choice of milk. Soy milk or almond milk.
Lunch and dinner offer an assortment of burgers, paninis, soups and salads, as well as full entrees of American and Italian food. If Italian food is on your wish list, try the Spicy Penne Pasta, Lasagna, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Ravioli and Fettucini Alfredo. Not all entrees are Italian, but all are flavorful and made from fresh, local ingredients. The good news for gluten-free eaters is they offer gluten-free pasta.
For the competitive beer drinkers, try the 128-ounce Das Boot filled with your favorite brew. Or for the not so competitive, try the 64-ounce option. Ring the bell once you’ve finished.
“My mottos are: Something unique sells and treat the customer like family,” Tolosko said. And it’s working. Centifonti’s has been in business for 15 years and going strong.
What’s next for Tolosko? A speakeasy with dining and dancing. Like her food, she has an eclectic assortment of musical acts who are waiting to transport San Diegans away for an hour or two.
For current hours and specials go to www.centifontis.com.
— Robin Dohrn-Simpson is a local freelance food and travel writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.