By Cassia Pollock
The owners, native Italian brothers Dario and Pietro Gallo, started the place after moving to San Diego directly from Consenza, Italy in the southern region of Calabria three and a half years ago.
A vegan himself, Pietro Gallo says this is one of the only Italian eateries offering a full vegan menu in all of California, while still offering traditional Italian meals with meat and dairy.
They offer a full vegan menu with diverse appetizers including eggplant meatballs, mushroom calamari and their most popular — the “Caprese Mozzarella” with delicious heirloom tomatoes.
Their wine menu also includes seven vegan choices. Pietro recommended the ‘Santa Chiara’ white wine imported from the Terre Nobili wine company in Calabria. The wine is considered vegan because it is filtered with special equipment that carefully avoids any cross contamination with animal products.
The Times of San Diego tried their three most popular dishes, along with their vegan bread which is served with a delicious pesto-like sauce. The light, fluffy bread is perfectly flavored when dipped into their sauce brimming with authentic Italian olive oil, garlic and natural seasonings.
Their top vegan dishes included our personal favorite, the traditional Italian eggplant parmigiana known as “Melanzana alla Parmigiana.” The eggplant is tender, soft and juicy. It’s sprinkled with clusters of creamy, melt-in-your-mouth vegan mozzarella. Even if you’re not a big fan of eggplant, a taste of this dish will change your mind.
Their house-made Ravioli filled with truffle wild mushrooms sauce, known as “Ravioli Boscaiola” was a close second. The mushrooms are juicy and tender, and the ravioli noodles are made from scratch without any animal products. The sauce blends the rich creamy flavor of wild mushrooms with satisfying noodles.
Any vegans looking for the classic sausage lasagna will find equal satisfaction in their “Lasagna Romagnola.” The vegan sausage has achieved the flavor of real meat, or as close as humanly possible. It looks, tastes and satisfies Italian cravings for lasagna regardless of your dietary preferences.
Perhaps, the biggest challenge for vegans will be saving room for dessert. Our personal favorite was the pistachio gelato which will transport food-lovers to another world of creamy gelato goodness. The flavor is profoundly pleasing to the senses. It doesn’t matter if you’re lactose intolerant because they make this with zero dairy products. Chocolate connoisseurs should also try their vegan Gelato Tartufo — an Italian dark cacao gelato stuffed with caramel chocolate.
Besides that, you can’t miss their unique vegan Tiramisu. It’s covered in a special custard, sprinkled with chocolate flakes. Just wait until you discover the crisp spongy espresso cake hidden inside.
“I’m the only one who makes vegan Tiramisu in all of California, so it’s a big challenge…Everything is a challenge,” Pietro told the Times of San Diego.
The Gallo brothers have clearly risen to this challenge. They use simple ingredients like tomato sauce, Italian olive oil and garlic. Pietro explained there are separate equipment facilities for the vegan cooks and the regular cooks, to prevent any cross contamination of ingredients.
“It was important for me being a vegan,” said Pietro. “I couldn’t work in a business where there is just meat and cheese.”
His hard work creating a vegan menu paid off for the Gallo brothers with the vegan customers accounting for 30 percent of the restaurant’s overall revenue since Civico 1845 opened in July 2015.
“The first customer we got was a vegan,” Pietro told the Times of San Diego.
“We are just one or two restaurants in all of the country with Italian vegan. It’s a rare option. Our food is very authentic — first of all, because we are Italian — 100 percent,” said Pietro.
The place is a rare treasure for both vegans and non-vegans, as well as anyone with various dietary restrictions. Pietro makes his own pasta without eggs or dairy products, drawing some inspiration from his mother’s healthy cooking.
“Authentic Italian food is very healthy,” said Pietro. “Our mama raised us with always healthy food like beans, vegetables, seafood. We used to eat cheese just once a week.”
Pietro says they import all their important ingredients from Italy including salt, olive oil and wine.
“There is no compromise. We use Italian recipes and it’s very healthy,” Pietro noted with pride.
Altogether, Civico 1845 provides a blissful, inclusive dining experience for all of San Diego that accommodates a diverse range of dietary needs. The greatest challenge foodies and vegans alike will face at this Italian restaurant is limiting themselves to a few dishes, when there are too many delicious dishes to choose from.
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