Sarah Yates discovers a culinary gem when she leasts expects it in San Diego. As anyone who has travelled for an extended period of time can attest, while on the road, occasionally, a person will run out of underpants and be forced to spend a couple of hours staring at front loaders spinning round while watching the world clean their whites. This is what I call dead time – you are in a fabulous place doing something completely mundane; it always seems like such a waste.
For my husband and I, this particular Sunday laundry night started no differently. We had arrived into San Diego from the madness of Las Vegas in the early evening, wearing our last pair of clean undergarments. Washing could not be put off any longer – unless we started wearing things inside out. We had loaded the machines and were settling in for the wait when I stepped out for some air. The night was cool. I breathed deep, savouring the taste of salt on my tongue from the sea two streets away.
Looking around at the seaside village-scape of Point Loma, I noticed windows further down, floor to ceiling French ones thrown open to the night air. Curtains fluttered through on the drift of the breeze, like fingers beckoning me down the street. Warm yellow light spilled out into the darkness.
I heard voices, laughter, a guitar being tuned, a tinkle of a piano key. I closed my eyes and smelt the garlic, mingled with the salt air and smelling so much like home that I felt the sting of homesick tears. Peering in at the window, I expected a dinner party in someone’s house – instead, I saw a room with white walls, polished concrete floors and an oversized fireplace. The only light was from candles – they were everywhere, the place alive with their flickering glow. A jazz band was tuning up, ready to let their music drift into the night.
The pull of this intimate restaurant was irresistible. We spent the evening there, eventually with bags of clean laundry sitting warm at our feet. We were bathed in candlelight, our homesick souls soothed by the jazz. The wine was cold – crisp sauvignon blanc to match the warm night and the sea air. The food was good: homely Italian pasta, seafood straight from the ocean, fresh crusty bread to mop the sauce from our plates. The waitress was welcoming and friendly; we swapped “travel tales and small talk” over tiramisu.
If you are ever in San Diego, wander out to Point Loma and spend a Sunday evening by the sea, at a tiny restaurant called Old Venice, where the light is low, the jazz is smooth and the food is oh-so-good. While you are there, the laundromat two doors up is not bad either. Sarah Yates