A new Italian restaurant is now open in the Otay Ranch Town Center. Garbatella Osteria is owned by two husband and wife duos, Antonio Luiu and Diana Gonzalez, and Saul Plata and Carelma Rodriguez. The Roman-styled Italian restaurant and café, according to chef Luiu, is named after a neighborhood in Rome that he lived in meaning “humble beauty,” which felt like the right choice for its new home in Chula Vista.
Garbatella Osteria Bar is a 206-seat restaurant that offers a full bar, event space, outdoor patio area, and Italian cafe. It features an imported Italian wood-fire pizza oven, private wine lockers and live music. The menu will reflect a true Italian experience and the food that Luiu was raised on.
Specialties include a Frittura Garbatella seafood dish, parmesan fondue, lasagna della garbata, classic carbonara, and the Antonello pizza topped with jumbo shrimp. The much anticipated pizza oven will be managed by pizzaiolos who have traveled from and were trained in Italy. In addition to nightly dinner service, Garbatella Osteria will also offer breakfast and lunch, plus high-quality Italian coffee, pastries and breads from the cafe.
Luiu said he co-owns Garbatella with long-time partner Saul Plata. Luiu, a baker and chef, said he started the business in 1991 after working in England, Scotland, and Ireland for a large Italian chain restaurant. After that he worked for a large cruise line as a chief baker. He said after meeting his wife, he got a job offer in Canada, and after receiving his green card in 2013, he opened a restaurant in Tijuana, now with six locations, and another in Valle Guadalupe.
“This is my first restaurant in the U.S. along with my partner,” he said. “My wife is originally from Tijuana, so when I got my visa, I moved to Chula Vista to be close to my restaurants in Tijuana. Chula Vista is my neighborhood now.”
Luiu said at Garbatella, they make pizza from scratch, bread, biscotti, cakes, gelato, all from scratch and as close to authentic Roman styled cuisine as possible. He said many of the signature dishes are authentic, but as chefs, made as their own creations, with its own style, distinct flavors, and something that you cannot find anywhere else.
“The presentation is amazing,” he said. “We have steaks, we have Risotto Ossobuco, veal with the bone in, and it is amazing.”
Luiu said it will be opening for breakfast on Feb. 16, with a selection of frittata, steak and eggs, healthy salads, and gluten free options. He said the wait is from the city of Chula Vista as he is building a large patio so that people can come in with their pets. He said by then, the restaurant will be open all day, switching from the breakfast menu to the lunch and dinner menu at 1 p.m.
“Also, we have a café,” he said. “You can come in the morning and have a cappuccino, with one of the oldest coffees from Italy, cannoli, nice croissants, and Italian pastries. People locally were waiting for this kind of project. Because there is nothing like us. We have a different menu, and a different ambiance.”
Luiu said this restaurant is needed in the newer, faster growing neighborhood, and saves people from having to go to downtown San Diego.
“Chula Vista, especially Otay Ranch and Eastlake, is changing unbelievably,” he said. “I live in the Village of Montecito and in 2018 there was nothing here. Now we have the Plaza, they are building so much housing, and more is to come. Our timing could not be more perfect.”