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The World In His Kitchen

Bella Vista Social Club & Caffé’s owner and Executive Chef Nicolas Caniglia

By Wendy Lemlin

 

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Nicolas Caniglia is truly a citizen of the world. Growing up in Europe with an Italian father and a French-Swiss mother, his love of travel and exploration propelled him around the globe. After living in Switzerland, Italy, Israel, Germany, England, Spain, France and Mexico, Nico eventually landed in La Jolla, where he and his wife Amanda own Bella Vista Social Club & Caffé on the ocean view cliffs above Torrey Pines. There, the Caniglias and their staff serve up an eclectic continental menu with influences from all the countries in which Nico has lived and honed his craft.

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Your culinary background? My first lessons were in my mamma’s kitchen where there was always some amazing international dish cooking. I attended culinary school in Switzerland as a stepping stone to combining my thirst for adventure, languages, and love for food. While I did have a formal start, it was really the world-wide travel and experience abroad that helped me develop my own style.

And your style is? Just like my life, I want to bring San Diego a little bit of everything from around the world. That’s why you can find Spanish, Italian, French, German, Swiss, and even Turkish dishes on our menu.

Your vision for Bella Vista Social Club & Caffé? In my country, you always knew where to find your friends. You’d head to the piazza where everyone gathered, conversed, and there was a real sense of community. Amanda and I had wanted to create a restaurant with that feeling of community, a hangout spot where people socialized and would talk about anything from the latest soccer match to politics or science. When we found Bella Vista, adjacent to the Sanford Consortium and close to the Gliderport, we knew it was a risk worth taking. We believed in the need for people to feel like they had a place

to go, where they are welcomed with open arms. And so far it’s worked, and our customers have become our extended family.

Most important restaurant lesson you’ve learned? Consistency is key. When a customer falls in love with a dish, he wants to be able to come back and order it again and again.

Best thing about owning a restaurant? Being independent and working for myself. And I truly love the diversity of our amazing clientele. 

Biggest challenge? Time management. We have a young son, and it is very difficult juggling a seven-day-a-week business and family time.

For fun? Work. Just kidding (sort of). Travel is my ultimate passion. Nothing compares to being outdoors, enjoying nature, and meeting people from other cultures.

What would people be surprised to know about you? I’m a caring man and a deep thinker. I prefer in-depth conversations to small talk and consider myself somewhat of a visionary when it comes to the future. Ρ