Rosina restaurant serves traditional, authentic Italian food in a family-like atmosphere

By Karen Billing

When you walk through the door at one of Rosina Gangale’s restaurants you are stepping into several years worth of tradition, into a place where you will be treated like a member of the family and fed like one too.

Gangale’s second Rosina restaurant opened in Santaluz in March, following up on the success of her Oceanside location that celebrated five years in August. The menu stays true to her heritage, serving up traditional, all-homemade and all-authentic Italian food.

“It is what you would be eating if you were lucky enough to be in Italy right now,” Gangale said

Gangale was born in Italy, into a large family with seven siblings and a mother who was an excellent cook.

“The Italian culture revolves around food because it is what brings everyone together,” Gangale said. “It is part of who we are as people.”

All of the children were taught to help out in the kitchen and her earliest kitchen memories involve making bread at age 10. She remembers tables of 20 family members gathering for a meal on Sundays. She has upheld that wonderful tradition of family dinners; her restaurants are always closed on Sundays so the family can be together.

Rosina’s family moved to San Diego from Italy in 1982 and in 1983 opened When in Rome in Luecadia, which she ran with her siblings Salvatore and Rosemary. Gangale moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, to raise her children and only returned to San Diego six years ago — in Sun Valley the family operated Salvatore’s restaurant.

When they opened When in Rome, Gangale did not have children. Now she has two sons, Giancarlo and Gianfranco, and they serve as cooks in her two Rosina’s locations, following the family tradition.

“They know what the food is supposed to taste like, what it is supposed to look like,” Gangale said. “It’s in their DNA.”

At Rosina’s, she promises that the pasta is perfectly cooked al dente and not overly sauced. While the printed menu is full of highlights —“Close your eyes and point because anything you choose will be delicious,” Gangale says — every night there are lots of specials to choose from.

They do an Insalata alla Siciliana, a Sicilian salad with a California twist, the addition of avocado to English cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and ricotta cheese. Their Burrata alla Panna antipasti comes with fresh creamy Mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes.

Her “melt in your mouth” lasagna features pasta made by hand and Gangale said people always tell her that her Bolognese dish is the best they’ve ever had.

The Mare e Monte is a dish with shrimp, scallops and calamari sautéed with wild mushrooms in a very light, fresh tomato sauce so as not to overwhelm the fish.

“It’s all about the quality of the ingredients and the freshness of them,” Gangale said.

On Mondays, the restaurant has no corkage fees, Wednesday is gourmet pizza night and Thursday is lasagna night. Tuesday is craft beer night where they offer craft beer or wine flights — the restaurant has high quality craft beers on tap, such as Chimay and Boont.

Rosina’s also offers take-home dinners that are perfect to pick up any night of the week. Customers choose a freshly prepared salad, pasta and protein dish to enjoy at home.

“It adequately feeds four people and it’s a killer deal, especially now that we’re all so busy,” Gangale said.

Gangale said while the Santaluz location may be a little hard to find, once people find it, it’s a treasure. She has decorated the space in warm, inviting colors and her family smiles out from framed photographs on the wall.

“It’s a lovely little restaurant, it’s a very nice area and people are very appreciative of having a great restaurant in their neighborhood,” Gangale said. “It’s almost like Sunday dinners every night when people come in, my customers are like extended family.”

Rosina’s is located at 14701 Via Bettona (San Diego, 92127) in Piazza Santaluz, off Camino del Sur. For more information, call (858) 759-4300 or visit

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