Cesarina Group Unveils Their Ode To Roman Cuisine With ‘Elvira’ Restaurant In Ocean Beach

The Sophomore Concept from Chef Cesarina Mezzoni and Co. Channels the Archetypal Italian Nonna, Rustico Cucina Romana, and Transportive Private Dining
Photo: Arlene Ibarra

The trio of restaurateurs behind one of San Diego’s Italian restaurants, Cesarina Ristorante (MICHELIN Bib Gourmand) led by Chef Cesarina Mezzoni, Niccolò Angius, and Giuseppe Capasso, have unveiled their sophomore concept Elvira, a Roman osteria and pizzeria in the heart of the city’s coastal Ocean Beach neighborhood.

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Rife with old-world charm, the restaurant carries on the Roman legacy of cofounder Niccolò Angius’ great-grandmother, Elvira Lippi. Having opened doors to the public on November 19th, the eponymous restaurant personifies the late Italian matriarch—the menu, a story of Rome’s ancient-to-urban foodways; cherished traditions frozen in time through an interactive theatrical dining experience; and a ‘Nonna chic’ design imbuing every corner with the nostalgic warmth of her very home.

“My great-grandmother, Elvira, was a quintessential Roman whose tenacity and unwavering passion for life have been our guiding inspirations. She taught me how exceptional food and down-to-earth hospitality have a remarkable ability to serve as a conduit for love and unity, and I’m proud to carry on that ethos at her namesake restaurant,” said Niccolò Angius in a statement.

Just 23 years old when her first brick-and-mortar opened doors in 2019, Executive Chef and Partner Cesarina Mezzoni has been gaining momentum as a rising star chef and indie restauranter ever since, earning her namesake restaurant a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand nod, and making her national TV debut as a featured chef on Food Network’s “Chopped Next Gen.” Raised in Rome by a Seychellois-immigrant mother, Chef Mezzoni gleaned an affinity for cooking at a young age, following in her maternal footsteps by using food as a means of cross-cultural connection. Elvira’s recent opening marks a pivotal moment for the now-28-year-old chef, whose indelibly personal touch is poised to amplify the osteria’s regionally-driven cuisine.

Helming over Elvira’s pizza program, Executive Pizza Chef Ignazio Tagliavia joins the team. A fellow Italian expat, hailing from Palermo, Sicily, Ignazio is an accredited technician of the Grandi Molini Italiani (GMI) and a Pizza Instructor who’s worked in restaurants throughout Europe and beyond. In 2021, he relocated stateside, joining the team at Eataly Los Angeles as Head Pizza Chef. Now, working together with Chef Mezzoni at Elvira, Ignazio applies his international experience and innovative interpretation of pizza in teglia to the lineup.

Elvira’s menus favor the bold flavors and time-honored preparations that shape Rome’s epic gastronomy— from the simple yet thoughtfully-curated Antipasto della Casa, brimming with cured meats, cheeses, housemade jams and Italian-imported provisions, to a daily-changing spotlight on the city’s most iconic street foods, or Fritti Del Giorno. The simplicity of Roma’s hallmark pastas shines through with housemade Cacio e Pepe, Rigatoni alla Carbonara, and Bucatini all’Amatriciana, while heartier second-course entrées aim to recontextualize ‘cucina povera’ with traditional Roman comfort foods. Meanwhile, Pizzaiolo Tagliavia’s program of wood-fired pizzas pose as the centerpiece of Elvira’s dinner menu. Embracing a reimagined version of pizza in teglia, red sauce pizzas range from quintessential classics like Margherita to meatier renditions like Diavola, while the white base selection rolls out lighter undertones like the veggie-forward Ortolana with fresh mozzarella, mushroom, peas, zucchini blossom and basil.

Elvira’s tradition-bound daily specials mirror the culinary customs of Rome’s weekly calendar, by which specific days of the week have become synonymous with certain ingredients. For example, Wednesdays are dedicated to ‘quinto quarto,’ or fifth quarter cuts, making way for Coda alla Vaccinara (oxtail stew) or colorfully striped Fettucine con le Rigaje. Following gnocchi on Thursdays, Fridays have fresh fish on the docket with emboldened classics like Seppie con Piselli (stewed cuttlefish with peas) and Baccala e Ceci, an oft-forgotten staple of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. In praise of offal, another pillar of Roman cuisine, Tripe is the star of Saturday specials with composed dishes such as Trippa all Romana, a slow-cooked delicacy served in a rich San Marzano tomato sauce with Pecorino Romano and fresh mint.

Elvira’s private dining room, dubbed ‘Cucina di La Nonna,’ will accommodate small parties of up to 8, as well as communal bookings. The intimate dining room sets the stage for a wholly interactive experience, inviting guests to immerse themselves in Elvira’s mealtime rituals. Here, servers are superseded by performers, playing the part of Nonna Elvira hosting her family to a homecooked meal, while guests can engage in memories come to life—from setting the table and choosing the tunes from Nonna’s vinyl collection to enjoying family-style courses and ‘round-the-table traditions.

The wine program emphasizes organic and biodynamically-farmed vintages from Italy’s central terroirs including Lazio, Umbria, Campagna, and Marche. Behind the bar, Italian-driven beers and a compelling slate of apéritifs and digestifs play well alongside craft cocktails leaning heavily into classic Italian spirits such as grappa and amaro. Boozy highlights include the Sgroppino di Nonna, a citrussy Limencello-eque elixir topped-off with a dollop of sorbet, the Tevere Esotico, a belly-warming play on a classic negroni, and the smoky-meets-sweet Testaccio Oaxaca.

Renovating a 2,400 square-foot beachside cottage originally built in the 1930s, the restaurant channels a ‘Nonna chic’ design influence. Ownership worked with Italian architecture/interior design firm Limes Architetti to conceptualize the top-to-bottom makeover. Entering through wrought-iron swing gates gives way to checkered terrazzo tile floors juxtaposed with rustic wood paneling and white-wash exposed brick, while custom built-ins mingle with second-hand treasures sourced from Italian flea markets. Retro-tinged décor and antique fixtures bring Elvira’s aesthetic into focus, with hand-painted ceramic artwork dotting the walls, alongside rows of family portraits and vintage vignettes in mismatched frames. Whimsical pendant lighting casts an inviting glow which sets the scene for a dining experience that seamlessly blends tradition with modern flair.

Elvira is located at 4996 W Point Loma Blvd. San Diego, CA 92107 and is open Monday, Thursday & Friday 4 – 9:30 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday 12 – 9:30 p.m.

Lisa Hay

Lisa Hay

Lisa is a staff reporter for What Now Media Group. She covers new restaurant, retail, and real estate openings across all of our markets. A true foodie, this Air Force veteran has lived all over the world — from Aviano, Italy to Nairobi, Kenya — but her favorite spot is NOLA for its rich history, architecture, culture, and of course, its good eats.
Lisa Hay

Lisa Hay

Lisa is a staff reporter for What Now Media Group. She covers new restaurant, retail, and real estate openings across all of our markets. A true foodie, this Air Force veteran has lived all over the world — from Aviano, Italy to Nairobi, Kenya — but her favorite spot is NOLA for its rich history, architecture, culture, and of course, its good eats.

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