For the concept of his newest restaurant, Salvatore Ercolano decided to just go with the flow.
In mid-February, he opened Seasalt Del Mar, a casual, Italian-inspired seafood restaurant that overlooks the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, with the Pacific Ocean within view.
“Seasalt Del Mar is my premier San Diego restaurant,” said Ercolano, who has opened, owned and managed more than 20 restaurants in two decades. “I have always wanted to open a restaurant with a view in Del Mar, and Seasalt Del Mar has the perfect location.”
It was only natural for Ercolano to decide on a menu that emphasized seafood because of the establishment’s coastal locale, at 2282 Carmel Valley Road. He opted to include sushi in a nod to the building’s former occupant, Japanese restaurant Eda-mami.
“Their customers had been coming for years,” Ercolano said.
Yet the majority of Seasalt Del Mar’s fare is influenced by the owner’s Italian background. Ercolano was born on the island of Capri, and began his culinary career at age 18, when he worked with a family-owned business. At age 22, he moved to New York, and served several years as manager of the Mezzaluna trattoria in New York City. Ercolano also had a stint as manager of Italian restaurant Va Bene in Hong Kong, before he landed in San Diego in 1993.
It wasn’t long before Ercolano began to make a name for himself in “America’s Finest City.” He started the Zagat award-winning restaurants Bella Luna and Paper Moon in the Gaslamp Quarter, and over the years, he moved northward, as he set up Come On In! cafés in La Jolla, Sorrento Valley and Carmel Valley, and Villa Capri restaurants in Poway and Carmel Valley.
Seasalt Del Mar is a bit of a departure from Ercolano’s other dining establishments, as a neighborhood seafood bistro that features al fresco dining on two patios. It has an “industrial chic” atmosphere, with reclaimed wood on the walls, concrete countertops, wooden ceiling beams and metal-exposed seamed chairs. There’s also a 25-foot bar where patrons can watch sports on two 50-inch HDTVs. Those looking to celebrate special events can reserve a private room with its own deck.
Of course, seafood is the specialty at Seasalt Del Mar, and Ercolano said he aims to keep the menu as healthy as possible. When guests are first seated at tables, they are given options of free bread, edamame with sea salt, or a combination of the two.
Executive Chef Hilario Rodriguez prepares a number of dishes using fresh fish, from salmon and halibut to tuna. Some of the signature items are the Dungeness Crab Cake with lemon caper aioli; Seasalt Tuna Scaloppine, featuring seared tuna topped with sliced fennel, pomegranate seeds, shallots and fresh parsley, and served with caramelized onion garlic mashed potatoes; Crab Raviolis “Two Ways,” in spicy pink tomato sauce and light lemon sauce; and the Seafood Stew Cioppino, a medley of fish, celery, onion, fennel and oregano in a light tomato sauce.
Ercolano added that he soon plans to start bringing in Maine lobster on weekends, on a seasonal basis.
While seafood takes center stage at Seasalt Del Mar, there are plenty of other alternatives, from chicken and steak entrees to salads, soups and sliders. Some of the notables are the Roman Style Artichokes sautéed with olive oil and garlic, and sprinkled with basil and parsley; and The Seasalt Salad with baby spinach, chopped Belgian endive, sliced beets, sliced apples and crumbled cranberry goat cheese, with a white wine balsamic vinaigrette.
The family-friendly menu also has a number of children’s favorites, such as Crusted Chicken Fingers with fries, Mac & Cheese and Fettuccine Alfredo.
Those with a sweet tooth can find delectables that range from Tiramisu to the Seasalt Gelato (caramel and dark chocolate).
Guests who desire libations can choose from more than 50 wines from around the world, eight craft beers from local breweries, and specialty cocktails made with Han Spirits.
While Seasalt Del Mar has a relatively inexpensive menu — the highest-priced items are $24 — it still offers a number of specials throughout the week. Patrons can get 50 percent off select wines on Mondays; celebrate Taco Tuesdays with two tacos and a bottle of beer for $9.50; enjoy any basic sushi roll with Sapporo beer for $9.50 on Wednesdays; or have a “Date Night” on Thursdays while selecting from a prix-fixe menu. There is also happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30 Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday.
Starting Feb. 28, the restaurant will offer weekend brunches. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, guests can order egg dishes, pancakes and French toast, plus afternoon favorites that include pastas and salads, and homemade salmon patties and beef burgers. The fare is offered via tableside service with a menu.
Seasalt Del Mar’s hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted for parties of four or more.
Call 877-755-7100 or visit www.seasaltdelmar.com.