The country was in an economic downturn. People were losing jobs and facing foreclosures. Restaurants were closing.
“Why would you want to open a restaurant at this time? You must be crazy!” he said. “That’s why I called it Bistro Pazzo. That means ‘crazy bistro.’”
If Marselian was crazy, he was crazy as a fox. His restaurant has survived during the hard times and continues to thrive because it has built a loyal clientele who love the friendly ambiance and fine food.
Marselian is a familiar face on the restaurant scene. He spent much of his career in and around San Diego, managing or owning highly regarded eateries. He ran, among others, French Gourmet, Avanti Ristorante, Top of the Cove, Harry’s Bar & American Grill and Elario’s atop Hotel La Jolla. He owned S’agapo Greek Cuisine, Aurora Trattoria and in Hillcrest, Medgrill San Diego.
He focuses all his experience and skill on Bisto Pazzo. The restaurant is small, with a small patio and limited seating inside. What makes it special is the service and the food that comes out of the kitchen.
Service is a family affair. When Marselian is in the kitchen, diners are often greeted and served by his son or daughter.
The menu is decidedly Italian. Some of the best appetizers (“antipasti”) are mozzarella Caprese — fresh mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes, basil and olives — or calamari fritti, deep-fried calamari with marinara sauce.
A good selection of salads is available for those who crave greens. Insalata de cesare (Caesar salad) was very tempting, though my favorite was the insalata de pomodora — sliced vine ripe tomato, red onions, Gorgonzola cheese with balsamic vinegar.
One word of caution: the rolls are fantastic. Don’t fill up on them. Save yourself for the entrees and desserts.
The pasta dishes include the simple spaghetti alla Bolognese — spaghetti with traditional meat ragout — which is really very meaty and tasty. Or try the rich penne al pollo — penne pasta, grilled chicken, zucchini, sundried tomatoes, garlic and cream sauce.
There is a large list of entrees (secondi). The pollo piccata — breast of chicken in lemon, butter and caper sauce — is very satisfying. Another chicken dish, pollo alla Fiorentino, with a white wine sauce, is a definite winner.
Seafood choices include salmone (salmon) grilled or sautéed in garlic. Gamberi (shrimp) are sautéed either in garlic butter or in a spicy marinara.
The dessert menu is tempting so be sure to leave room. The crème brulée and tiramisu are both made in house and very worth considering.
Wine, of course, is a wonderful addition to any dinner. The wine list is divided into Italian and American selections, white and red. Many are available by the glass. I enjoyed the pinot noir by Picket Fence from the Russian River area.
Although the restaurant may be small, it can come to you for large parties with catering, with extensive catering menus.
Look for daily wine specials and sunset food specials, which bring the Bistro’s moderate prices down even further.
Bistro Pazzo is a friendly place. Service is great. The food is great. The prices are great, very moderate. You’d be crazy to miss it. The restaurant is located 7930 Ivanhoe Ave. Call (858) 456-4005 for information and directions.