Chef Giuseppe Ciuffa grew up on his family’s farm in Cori, Italy, where he would visit local butchers, vinters, and fishermen to supplement his family's own farm-grown produce.
At his newest concept, Candor, he hopes to follow a similar model.
Each week, Chef Ciuffa shops the weekly La Jolla Open Aire Farmers Market a few steps away from the restaurant.
“Going to the farmers market is the highlight of my week. Growing up on my family’s farm, I know that business; I have a lot of respect for those hard-working people,” he said. “Most farm stands are family owned and I enjoy talking to them and sharing stories. Farming is not an easy task and needs to be respected more in our culinary world.”
A few items have to come from his hometown of Cori, including handcrafted olive oils and a selection of wines that share space on a list of over 50 bottles, hand-selected by Sommelier Sandro Mezzetti.
The Storied Location
It seems that nostalgia might have played a part in Chef Ciuffa’s choice of location for his newest venture. Over a decade later, he opened Candor in the exact location of his first solo restaurant project in La Jolla Village, Come On In! Cafe, which he closed in 2003 in order to focus on Giuseppe Restaurants & Fine Catering, which now caters over 300 events a year.
Something about Candor’s intimate interior transports you to a European bistro, making you forget that you’re actually in a La Jolla strip mall.
Inside you’ll find white washed exposed beams, Carrara marble countertops, and the faded wood floor. The neutral color palette gets a pop from bright blue chairs at the wine bar and vibrant art by local La Jolla artist Wendy Hamilton.
You may notice that your table is a little too close to your neighbors to have a truly private conversation, which is part of the charm. By the end of the meal, and perhaps a bottle of Barbera, you may have become friends with your fellow diners.
What to Order
To start, order the hot and crispy tomato bread with whole roasted garlic and cold pressed olive oil, which is a labor of love for Giuseppe, who slow roasts the tomatoes at low heat for hours, then adds fresh garlic and thyme and lets the compote simmer on the charbroiler in a large black skillet, which he says is the secret of the sauce.
Once cooked, it rests for a day before being served on crunchy country bread with a drizzle of cold pressed olive oil from Giuseppe’s hometown olive trees.
Grilled mission fig salad is another standout, the fruit complemented with wild arugula and frisee, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, and Marcona almonds, tossed in a white balsamic dijon dressing.
Maine lobster grilled cheese was another favorite. In addition to the lobster meat, whose preparation is a house secret, the sandwich includes a delicious combination of Midnight Moon goat cheese, aged Vermont cheddar, rhubarb jam, caramelized spring onion, and basil aioli, served alongside tomato basil soup for dunking.
For your entree, you can’t go wrong with the catch of the day, which changes based on what the chef finds at the market.
Fisherman stew is one of the most popular entrees, incorporating the daily catch, shrimp, salmon, mussels, lobster, and clams into a saffron tomato broth, served with charred country bread.
House-made pasta is another great option, like the flavorful orecchiette served with pork fennel sausage sugo, roasted peppers, and broccolini, topped with pecorino and breadcrumbs.