Popular Marketplace Grille thriving at Carmel Valley’s Piazza Carmel


Offering the “thrill of the grill” in San Diego since 1987, Marketplace Grille has found a happy new home in Carmel Valley’s Piazza Carmel.

Marketplace Grille features poultry and seafood, such as chicken, filet mignon, lamb, shrimp and salmon, mesquite-grilled on stainless steel skewers over an open-pit mesquite wood fire that customers can see aflame from the countertop.

Lovingly framed on the wall of the Piazza Carmel location are black-and-white prints of the fire pits of their longstanding La Jolla and Mira Mesa/Sorrento Valley eateries.

Over the years, Marketplace Grille has built up a loyal following with well-known fans such as politician Mitt Romney and life success coach Tony Robbins, who once had owner Tony Marashi bring food to the McClellan–Palomar Airport in Carlsbad so it could be flown directly to him and a group in Las Vegas that wanted Marketplace’s food to be the first they ate coming off a fast.

Pacific Highlands Ranch resident Robin Aldridge is also one of their biggest fans. She worked in the Sorrento Valley area for two years and found herself eating at the Mira Mesa/Sorrento Valley location about three times a week.

“The food is absolutely amazing, healthy and very fresh,” said Aldridge, listing her favorites as “the best” tabouleh and the Greek salad with spicy chicken.

In early 2013, she started working 100 percent from her home in Pacific Highlands Ranch, but would still make the trek to Sorrento Valley a couple of times a month for the food. She would joke with Marashi to please open a Carmel Valley location.

Amazingly enough, he did so a year later in February 2014.

In truth, Marashi has had his eyes on the Piazza Carmel spot for years. When he heard the Pick Up Stix was leaving, he finally made it in.

“I really like this location. Many people I have served over the years live in this area, since they were teenagers in La Jolla, and now they’re professionals who live in this part of town,” Marashi said.

“The very first week we were open, we were successful. I think people like that it’s healthy and fresh. We don’t have any butter here, there’s no microwave, no freezer. Everything is very healthy, very lean, and the mesquite flame just enhances the flavor of the food.”

Marashi bought Marketplace Grille in La Jolla in 1995. He had landed in San Diego by way of Texas, where he studied restaurant management at the University of Houston. He worked at restaurants, hotels and wineries, but saw true potential in Marketplace when it came up for sale.

The restaurant’s offerings were limited at the time, and Marashi beefed up the menu, adding soups, salads and appetizers. He brought in the grilled vegetables, wahoo fish and salmon.

“Our salmon is phenomenal. It’s out of this world, ” he said.

After five years at La Jolla, he opened the Mira Mesa location. Over the years, he opened and sold locations in Kearny Villa and downtown, and also operated a bakery in Escondido before the 2007 wildfires greatly affected his business and he had to sell.

On the menu at Marketplace are generous plates of assorted grilled vegetables and choice of poultry or seafood served with rice or shirazi salad, which features cucumber.

Appetizers include tabbouleh, a freshly made salad of parsley, tomato, green onion, garlic and bulgur wheat with olive oil and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Eggplants can be seen roasting over the charcoal fire to make their famous baba ghanoush dip — eggplant blended with yogurt and tahini.

Marketplace also has wraps, with all of their grilled goodness in whole wheat lavash bread, or you can opt to fill a crispy lavash bread bowl. Fresh-made hummus can be served with pita bread or sliced veggies for dipping, and sides include basmati white rice, herb rice or brown rice made in a special way, Marashi said, so it is never “mushy.”

After being open for nearly a year, Marashi said he has been very happy with the Carmel Valley location. The restaurant has patio space that allows for outdoor dining, and many customers he already knows by sight as regulars.

Marashi said he stayed open on Christmas Eve and Christmas, knowing not everybody would be celebrating the holidays. The restaurant ended up being “totally slammed.”

“That’s why we’re here,” Marashi said. “We’re here to serve our community.”

Visit marketplacegrille.com or call (858) 793-0705.