Solana Beach Crush
Like most refuges from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Solana Beach Crush could be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But many are the regulars who hone in on this recessed respite for its simple-but-posh, mood-lit yet light-hearted atmosphere, blending elegance and comfort to create an ambience for all to enjoy. The environs are as embracing as the restaurant’s warm-hug Italian fare.
The beating heart of Crush is its wood-fired oven, where the smolder of oak and hickory lend bold, lovely smoke and char accents to a variety of proteins peppered throughout the lengthy bill of fare. Quail “knots” (leg and thigh quarters) exhibit great depth of flavor, while demi-glace and buttery polenta further elevate this lean fowl to unexpectedly decadent heights.
Other starters impress, such as scallops with celeriac purée and spaghetti squash, and beet and burrata salad is taken a step beyond the norm with the addition of creamy avocado. But no visit to Crush is complete without an order of the house meatballs. Based off an Italian grandma’s hand-scrawled recipe, they are as authentic as the day is long, thanks to herbaceous notes and a tender, homogenous texture.
Similarly endearing for its Italiano legitimacy are Crush’s “pies.” No, they do not serve banana cream or lemon meringue — their “pies” are pizzas (thanks to a neighbor’s lease clause, no other tenant may use the term “pizza”). Thin-crusted but not crackery-crisp, Crush’s dough allows its scrumptious toppings — Calabrese salami, wild mushrooms, and, of course, those meatballs — to be the flavor focus. Each pie comes in a round that would register between small and medium at most pizza joints — perfect for splitting.
Numerous pastas are house-made, such as the pesto-dressed linguine with shrimp. Not made from scratch but just as tasty all the same is fettucine tossed in white wine broth with plump Manila clams and Bilbao chorizo. Though the sausage could use a bit of browning, the dish itself is brilliant in its marriage of earthy, ocean flavors. Prefer something more secondi in nature? Opt for golden-brown chicken piccatta in lemon butter sauce enlivened with caper acidity. Or, try the house-favorite oak-grilled Italian sea bass with fingerlings, given unexpected crunch from toasted Spanish Marcona almonds.
Follow the scent of flaming lumber and Grandma’s meatballs to this Highway 101 hideaway. It’s recommended that such expeditions be embarked on Tuesday evenings when a bottle of Pinot Grigio or Brunello di Montepulciano comes complimentary with the purchase of any two entrées. Then, save room for Crush’s sinfully silken butterscotch and chocolate budino dessert. Sit down, sit back, and mangia! 858.481.2787, solanabeachcrush.com Brandon Hernández
Photography by Vincent Knakal