Wandering around the Gaslamp district of San Diego, I walked past Chianti, a warm and inviting restaurant on restaurant row. There were literally restaurants shoulder to shoulder in this area, but Chianti stood out simply because of the welcoming vibe of the owner and hostess. There is a delicate balance between being a pushy salesperson and being so aloof that you can appear snobby; this is especially true when inviting strangers to try a restaurant. The first impression really is key, but I wandered all along the street twice just to see if there was any other place that would beckon me to "Eat here." Nope. And on the second pass, I got the same warm and hospitable vibe from Chianti, so I went in and ended up very pleased with my choice.
The server, Kenny, was the perfect balance of present when needed and invisible while I was enjoying my meal. His recommendation for wine was based on knowledge of wines (imagine that!), and even my preference for how I liked my pasta (capellini instead of spaghetti, and red pepper flakes instead of parmesan) was met with an attitude of "Of course, no problem." The food is rustic Italian, with a nice balance of flavors from the spinach salad with fried pancetta, mushrooms and tomatoes, to the pasta putannesca with kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. A nice touch was the owner coming by to wish me buono appetito when I received my main course. It seems all the servers are as efficient and friendly as Kenny because the table next to me got shopping and travel recommendations from another waiter for both San Diego and Catalina Island. Chianti was definitely as tasty inside as it was welcoming on the outside.
Jacques Lelong/Mango has two stores in the heart of the Gaslamp that carry very cute clothes for that chic boho look for under $100. The sale rack has even better deals with some dresses under $35. It's not high end designer stuff, but it's made well enough to last for more than one outing.
Dinner and a dress, my perfect combo.