Uptown Food Briefs – November 21

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

A major expansion is underway at Urban MO’s Bar & Grill, which is slated for completion by late December. The property will remain open for business during the remodel as private cabanas, additional restrooms and second-floor offices are created. With 1,000 square feet being added to the patio, it will feature both non-smoking and smoking sections, a wrap-around rectangular bar plus new artwork and lighting. Owned by MO’s Universe, which also operates Gossip Grill, Baja Betty’s and Hillcrest Brewing Company, Urban Mo’s already holds the honor from as being one of the “top three LGBT patio bars in the world.” 308 University Ave., 619-491-0400.

The Royal Cafe French scrambleweb

Eggs and ratatouille at The Royal Café (Photo by Jim Bonner)

The Royal Café in Bankers Hill has switched from an exclusive coffee house to a wine-centric restaurant specializing in farm-to-table breakfasts and evening noshes. Co-owner Markus Ferraro, a former manager at Wine Steals in Hillcrest, describes the new interior design as “Art Deco New York meets European café.” With ingredients sourced locally, the menu includes pancakes made with quark cheese, a French scramble served with ratatouille and a European-style breakfast sandwich constructed with eggs, sage cheddar and a choice of meats.

A focused beer selection is also in the offing, along with a wine program built around new selections introduced every Thursday. In addition, custom mimosas based on five different juices are available, along with coffee drinks. 3401 First Ave., 619-501-4715.

Nancy Daniele of Nunzi'sweb

Nancy Daniele of Nunzi’s is moving her café (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

Famous for its house-made Italian entrees and decadent desserts, Nunzi’s in Hillcrest has moved Downtown on Third Avenue, a stone’s throw away from the San Diego Civic Theatre. In doing so, owner Nancy Daniele partnered with her mother within a café she operated for the past 11 years. The new, combined venture has been named Nunzi’s @ Al Teatro Panini Grill.

“I moved my baking equipment and I’ll be bringing the flavors of Hillcrest to the new location,” said Daniele, adding that she’ll oversee dinners and Sunday brunch while her mom cooks the meals for breakfast and lunch. 1254 Third Ave. 619-230-1485.

Plumbing issues that delayed The Whole Hog from opening in late summer have been resolved, and its owners are now ready to launch the Hillcrest sandwich shop on Nov. 20. Chef-partner Graham Fleming will roll out an initial menu featuring about 10 different sandwiches that capture various smoked meats, such as Carolina-style pulled pork sourced from a Julian farm and Texas-inspired brisket. The lineup will also include Cubanos and salmon BLTs. 3749 Park Blvd., 619-929-6962.

The popular family-operated wine bar, Jake’s on 6th, will permanently close on Nov. 15. “We gave it our all in the last six years and my parents are getting ready to retire,” said Jennifer Totah, who helped run the Hillcrest operation with two siblings. “It was a hard decision to close and we’ll definitely miss seeing a lot of familiar faces.” No word yet on who will take over the space. 3755 Sixth Ave.

Much to our surprise and bewilderment, Taste of Italy in Hillcrest has gone poof. Ditto for its Torrey Hills location. The spaces are dark, the phone numbers no longer exist and the web site has disappeared. Taste of Italy in Rancho San Diego, however, remains open although it operates under different ownership.

Plumeria Vegetarian interiorweb

Plumeria Vegetarian has expanded (Photo by Frank Sabatini Jr.)

The once-tiny kitchen at Plumeria Vegetarian in University Heights has moved next door into a significantly larger kitchen used by the former American Voodoo restaurant. The adjoining space was taken over entirely by Plumeria, resulting in much-needed additional seating as well. 4661 Park Blvd., 619-269-9989.

—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at

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