Today's (4/3/03) San Diego Union has a very favorable review of Ciao Bella in La Mesa.
Ciao Bella is a smallish, unpretentious neighborhood restaurant at which the food is much better than you would normally expect at such an establishment. The menu has some interesting things that put it several notches above the kind of spaghetti and pizza joints that abound in the land to the east of San Diego State. At that same time, however, don't look for the expensive or exotic; no risotto with black truffles here. It opened just a few months ago in the site formerly occupied by Adamo's on Baltimore Drive, just north of Fletcher Parkway (behind the Shell Station, next to the 7-11).
Just by word of mouth, Ciao Bella's popularity has grown to the point that it's jam packed most evenings. One of the big attractions of the place, prominently mentioned in the U-T's review, is the gregarious and charming personality of the owner. The first time I was there, it was to pick up a pizza that I had ordered by phone. It was a Saturday, not yet 7 p.m. Every table was filled and there were three small parties waiting. While I was paying for my pizza, a woman walked in with a party of eight. She said she had a reservation, and it had been confirmed two days before. The owner scanned his book, and then cast his eyes desperately across the room. Looking the lady in the eye, and slapping his forehead, he then cried out in a loud and impassioned voice, "OH MY GOD!"
About that time, I slipped out the front door with a fervent promise to myself that I'd be back soon. The pizza? Thin crust, cheese, basil, tomatoes and sauce, with sausage. Molto Italiano. It was delicious.
. . jim strain in san diego (La Mesa, actually)