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DINING: Via Lago Trattoria In Chula Vista

Via Lago in Chula Vista.
Photo by Steven Persitza

Sometimes you just want the basics. And on occasion, that’s just plain, old-fashioned Italian food. Yes, we enjoy the artistry and culinary quirks that come with new, wildly creative chefs and their divine interpretations. That being said, at times all you need is some pasta, sauce, bread and salad. Manja! Dining at Via Lago Trattoria, expect the traditional Italian cuisine to satisfy that itch and a slight sophistication that is so much more than just a “bowl of spaghetti.”

Via Lago is unassumingly located in a little strip mall in Chula Vista. Definitely off the beaten path, but a perfect location for a casual business lunch. Knowing that it was part of the always enjoyable Busalacchi family of restaurants assured us that we were in for some good eats.

Forget the strip mall once you walk in. A wall of trickling water and lights glides into a pool of smooth stones, creating a soothing sense of comfort and Zen-like calm. While not a large space, the dining area feels open and inviting. Tables and booths are separated by wrought iron railings, adding to the simple decor of Italian reds and browns. Portraits of the same “white-haired moustached man” adorned all of the walls of the interior making us wonder if this was a Busalacchi ancestor watching over us and the food. More garlic, Mario!

Patio seating is available and a glass enclosed room filled to the top with row after row of wine accommodates private parties. An antique table serves as a cheese and wine preparation station in the center of the room, where one can envy the selections of fellow diners.

Via Lago is brimming with classic Italian fare and we couldn’t be happier. A full menu is offered, but if you are there for lunch take a look at the Via Lago Express ($9.95) featuring a signature entrée with a Mista Salad. Options include Pollo Parmigiana, Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo, Gnocchi Sorrentino and Spaghetti Bolognese, amongst others.

For starters you can’t do Italian and not try their Minestrone soup ($5.95) which was a large bowl of steamy goodness. Fresh crisp vegetables swirled with superb flavor that even on a hot day created that warm delightful feeling right down to your toes. A classic salad adorned with Italian dressing, the Mista was fresh and a precursor of good things to come. The soft, pull-apart bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic kept to the Italian theme.

Lunches consisted of the “express” special of Fettuccine Alfredo (creamy cheese sauce, pasta and chicken – normally $12.95) and Lasagna (pasta sheets layered with ricotta and beef ragu – normally $11.95). From the regular menu, choose the Rigatoni Sausage (spicy sausage, fresh tomato, garlic and olives - $11.95). All three dishes were inspired and delivered just what any pasta craving diner would hope for.

The Alfredo satisfied with its wonderful cheesy goodness smothering the chicken and pasta. While the chicken itself was a tad bland, the accompanying sauce easily stepped up the flavor profile. The lasagna was a showstopper. This is real Italian cuisine, layer upon layer of pasta with deliciously generous amounts of cheese and a splendid beef ragu. Go for this if for no other reason. The rigatoni sausage delivered a splendid dish that surprised with a bit of heat while remaining true to its heritage. Pure joy.

Tuesday evening at Via Lago offers Happy Hour all night long beginning at 3 p.m. (can we leave work early please?). Complimentary appetizers on the patio and bar area with live piano music are sure to sooth the savage beast. Wednesday is half-off wine night with 50 percent off all bottles of wine in the restaurant. Here is where you can show off and get that higher end vintage without breaking the bank. Not too bad of a wine list for a small venue either.

Via Lago Trattoria is a terrific reminder of what eating grand Italian food is all about. Great seasonings, awesome pasta, lip-smacking sauces, generous portions and an ambiance of comfort and style. Tack on spot-on service and your dining experience is set. Cin cin and enjoy!

The Good: Italian food done right, with respect to old traditions.

The Bad: Too many choices (we actually brought more food home).

Details »
  • City: chula vista
  • Phone: 619-216-8660
  • Name: Via Lago Trattoria
  • Address: 866 eastlake parkway