Villaggio Ristorante opens in Del Mar

Jay Bartolomei and Troy Nunez opened Villaggio in Del Mar.
(Luke Harold)

During a four-day visit to Del Mar in July, Cape Cod restaurateur and chef Jay Bartolomei noticed a vacant space for a restaurant on Camino Del Mar.

Within about two months he opened his fifth eatery, Villaggio Ristorante, at that location.

“It’s a little challenging with the new restrictions, but you kind of just adapt,” Bartolomei said. “As long as you serve great flavored food and give people value for what they’re spending, they’re going to keep coming.”

His spontaneous new venture started after the COVID-19 pandemic began, when he decided to make a cross-country trip to visit his longtime friend, Troy Nunez.

Nunez, who is from North County and now lives in Carmel Valley, said he tried for years to convince Bartolomei to move west and open a place in downtown San Diego.

The two ate breakfast and lunch everyday during Bartolomei’s summer visit, and spent a lot of time on the beach with little else to do because of the public health restrictions. The one morning they couldn’t meet for breakfast, Bartolomei strolled down Camino Del Mar and saw the “for lease” sign.

He mentioned his plan to sign the paperwork to Nunez, who went into business with him and serves as CEO. Bartolomei, who said he’s still “not used to this laid back” pace of life in Southern California, made sure he had new kitchen equipment and furniture in place as quickly as possible, among the many other tasks that had to be completed.

The name Villaggio comes from Bartolomei’s Cape Cod restaurant. The Del Mar version, he said, is a slightly less formal, family-style restaurant. The menu is “straight up Northeast,” with lobsters, clams, oysters and other seafood imported from his home region, as well as Italian specialties, prime steak and more.

“I kind of put a spin on a lot of things,” Bartolomei said, “so it’s kind of my own creations.”

“So far, everybody’s in heaven,” Nunez said of the community reaction. “They love the menu, they love the amount of food they’re getting.”

He added that their vision is to make Villaggio “the place you come when you want to celebrate a birthday, or a job promotion or something great.”

Villaggio opened in late October, but they’re holding off on an official grand opening until after they secure a liquor license in the weeks ahead.

“This is the place you come when you want to celebrate a birthday, or a job promotion or something great,” Bartolomei said. “My passion is making people happy with food, that’s what I do. I always bend over backwards for everybody. I want everybody to leave happy.”

Villaggio is located at 1201 Camino Del Mar. For more information, visit villaggiocapecod.com/del-mar or call 858-755-0000.


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