There are many fashionable trends when it comes to food, like fad diets, Instagram arrangements, and crazy ways to eat your food (remember the chew each bite ten times before you swallow?). What about ordering your meal using a positive affirmation instead of naming the dish? In San Diego’s Little Italy, a couple of restaurants are integrating positive affirmations into the ordering process and I got the opportunity to try them out and see what it’s like to say “I am adventurous” instead of saying “I would like the French Toast, please.” So, pack your bags as we head to San Diego for some good-positive-vibes vegan eats.
In the quaint neighborhood of Little Italy, there is a chic, vegan restaurant called Café Gratitude. As you step inside, you are greeted with light, airy, and simplistic décor that is very Tumblr-esque. It basically serves as the perfect backdrop for an Instagram photo-op. And you can’t help but notice that there is a soft, peaceful, and positive atmosphere. After being seated, you will see on the top of the menu it reads, “I AM …” in bold letters. And next to the listed dishes, you’ll see words such as “Free,” “Open,” “Daring,” “Comfortable,” etc. This is part of a new initiative a few restaurants partnered up on to create a new experience for you, the customer, to use positive affirmations when ordering to connect positivity, gratefulness, and happiness with the meal you're about to eat.
Affirmations are positive, specific statements that help us overcome negative thoughts. They can help us visualize and believe in what we are affirming to ourselves, and help make positive changes in our lives. Going to Café Gratitude for breakfast is a perfect way to start your day with a lot of positivity. I ordered the “I Am Adventurous” (vegan French Toast topped with fruit and a sweet cream sauce) because I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had French Toast; let alone a vegan version, since eggs and milk are traditionally used to give French Toast its signature crisp, pan-fried exterior and its soft, spongy interior.
My husband ordered the “I Am Comfortable” (oatmeal with fruit) and the oh-so-delicious-I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan-and-gluten-free coffee cake. I kid you not, this coffee cake was the best coffee cake I have ever tried. Ever! And, it’s vegan and gluten-free! The spongy, blueberry cake was topped with a crispy, crunchy, house-made granola (to replace the traditional breadcrumbs), and drizzled with a simple, sugar icing on top. By the end of my meal, I felt comfortably full but adventurous enough to stay longer to try the lunch menu. This place can be pricey, but considering that everything served is organic and made in-house, I think the prices reflect such luxuries. I recommend coming here for breakfast, since it is such a nice, refreshing start to your day. However, they are open for lunch and dinner as well. If you are in a hurry, they also have one part of the restaurant dedicated to their to-go options. So, if you are feeling a little adventurous, you can grab some of their to-go items and take them to Waterfront Park, which is a couple blocks away, and have a nice picnic right along the water and see the beautiful views San Diego has to offer.
Right around the corner from Café Gratitude is one of the best Italian restaurants Little Italy has to offer. As you walk up to Civico 1845, you’ll see both the outside garden terrace patio out front and the inside restaurant packed full. An older, Italian gentlemen (who I later learned was the owner) and the hostess greet you in fluent Italian. You ask for a table for two and expect to hear a 45-minute to 1-hour wait response. Instead, she pulls out two menus and tells you to follow her. You walk inside the restaurant, which has a shabby-chic meets Tuscany interior design. You feel like you’re walking inside one of your friend’s fabulous Italian grandma’s house. And throughout the rest of the night, you hear the staff and waiters talk loudly over the customer’s heads in fluent Italian. Automatically, you feel transported to Italy, to a quaint restaurant off some random, old, narrow cobblestone path that winds all the way down to the Amalfi Coast. And if the ambience doesn’t impress you yet, the menu sure will.
Civico 1845 has two menus: their traditional, Italian menu and then their all-vegan Italian menu. And right at the top of their menus you’ll see “I AM …” in bold letters again. This restaurant also uses positive affirmations when ordering; however, when you say your affirmation, you will be saying it both in English and Italian. You start by saying the English “I Am …” followed by the positive word, which, in this case, is in Italian. The Italian word is right next to each dish on the menu. How cool is that? You get to incorporate Italian culture not just through the food but also through the language. Of course, you don’t have to order using the positive affirmation, in case you are afraid of butchering the language. Honestly, I can’t remember the Italian word for my dish; however, I know I won’t forget how good the food was any time soon.
For an appetizer, I ordered the Bruschetta. I was expecting 4-6 tiny crostinis; instead, we got a huge plate with four types of Bruschetta on top (a traditional tomato topping, an avocado one, an artichoke heart topping, and one with tomatoes and pasta sauce). If I had known how big the serving size was going to be, I would’ve ordered this as my meal. Speaking of which, I had the mushroom ravioli as my entrée. For me, it was a little bit one-noted since it was only mushrooms and pasta. However, I dressed it up with the basil olive oil on our table, which made it way more satisfying. I wish I had ordered the vegan lasagna, but I guess I’ll just have to go back some day. So, next time! For dessert, my husband and I split the vegan chocolate gelato filled with a chocolate caramel sauce stuffed in the core. This dessert was heavenly and it reminded me of eating chocolate lava cake when you open up the middle and let all the gooey sauce come pouring out.
Civico 1845 was tasty, fun, and just a pure delight to be there. I’d come back here for the ambience alone, but it also helps that the food was amazing too. A little side note, remember how I thought for sure there would be a long wait for a table? The reason why we didn’t have to wait is because this place turns tables like crazy. This was the fastest service I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant. And I went there on a Saturday night, without a reservation, when it was a packed house. If you’re lucky and you get a seat in the front terrace garden, you’ll have the opportunity to chat with the owner who loves talking to the customers about all things Italy and the food you’re eating.
I’ve learned from using positive affirmations when ordering at a restaurant that you are more likely to be around positive company and feel good about your meal and yourself long after you leave the place. So, maybe there is something to this unique way of ordering that projects positivity into your life while you enjoy the tastiest vegan eats you’ll find in San Diego.