New Busalacchi Modern Sicilian Concept Makes Its Debut | Barbusa To Open By Week's End In Little Italy

June 14, 2016

The Busalacchi family recently shut down their longtime Italian steakhouse Po Pazzo to renovate the space for the opening of a modern Sicilian culinary concept - Barbusa - which will open this week in the heart of the bustling gastronomic hub of Little Italy. The opening marks the start of a new era for the Busalacchi brand, headed by the family’s patriarch Joe, often revered as a pioneer in San Diego’s Little Italy district.

A Sicilian immigrant who moved to San Diego as a young boy, Joe Busalacchi took a leap of faith in Little Italy’s then-desolate India Street in 1994 when he opened Trattoria Fantastica. Now, more than 20 years and several successful restaurants later, he’s handing the reins of this culinary venture to his two sons, Joey and PJ, who are introducing a youthful, fresh perspective on the family’s Sicilian heritage.

Photo by Lyudmila Zotova 
Conceptualized by Chef Joe Busalacchi and Executive Chef Nino Zizzo, (Po Pazzo, Trattoria Fantastica) and managed by the two Busalacchi sons, Barbusa aims to enhance the current Little Italy dining landscape, heavy in Northern Italian food-centric concepts, by introducing lighter, traditional Sicilian cuisine with a contemporary twist. Rendering homage to the farm to table movement rooted traditionally in Italian gastronomy, Barbusa will be sourcing both produce and seafood from local farms and purveyors while slicing all cured meats and Italian specialty cheeses in front of guests. The restaurant will also boast an in-house pasta program, utilizing centuries-old recipes handed down generation to generation, visible from an eye-catching display facing all vantage points in the main dining room.

Arancini Trio
Menu highlights include Arancini Trio, stuffed risotto balls offered in 3 flavors (Squid Ink, Beef Ragú, Truffle); Carpaccio, made with short rib, shallots, caciocavallo, lemon and microgreens; Piselli Carbonara, with handmade fettuccini, sweet peas, caramelized onions, pancetta, and farm fresh egg yolk; and Risotto e Fave, composed of fava beans, guanciale and caciocavallo cheese.

Handcrafted pizza offerings include Dolci e Picante with spicy soppressata, lavender honey, braised shallots, mozzarella, grana padano, and basil; California with mozzarella, arugula, avocado, lemon, and balsamic reduction; and Melanzane; topped with san marzano tomatoes, eggplant, mozzarella, ricotta, and pistacchio pesto.

Wild Salmon Carpaccio
Lighter options on the menu include the Rucola salad with arugula, shaved fennel, fried chickpeas, gorgonzola dolce, pomegranate seeds, and lemon chili vinaigrette; Beet & Burrata, composed of red and yellow beets, burrata, arugula, olive oil caviar, and balsamic reduction; and Broccoli Affogati, with elephant garlic, pecorino sardo, lemon-infused olive oil and bottarga. Due to popular demand, the famed 32oz. Sicilian Bone in Ribeye, formerly served at Po Pazzo, will also be available at Barbusa. Additionally, a rotating selection of seasonal oysters and raw seafood preparations will be available on a regular basis at the crudo/carpaccio bar. Complementing the savory side of the menu, the culinary team has created several Sicilian-inspired desserts presented in an elevated way, such as the Deconstructed Cannoli, a creamy Chambord Panna Cotta, and a Nutella Banana Tiramisú.

By utilizing Little Italy Mercato as an inspiration, the cocktail program at Barbusa will rely heavily on seasonal and fresh ingredients combined with boutique bitters and Italian-forward liqueurs like grappa and amaro. From Kumquat and Blood Orange Mojitos to riffs on the traditional Aperol Spritz and the Galapagos cocktails, Bar Managers Max Petrich and Wendy McGlinnen have spent months perfecting cocktail combinations which highlight rich Southern Italian flavor profiles, complementing the restaurant's modern Sicilian nuanced flavors. Also catering to those abstaining from alcohol, the fresh-fruit based libations will be available in their virgin form. In addition to a Sicilian cocktail program, Barbusa has partnered with San Diego-based nano brewery Thunderhawk Alements to provide beer enthusiasts with exclusive brews in addition to a rotating selection of local beers on tap.

With a keen eye towards urban Italian aesthetics, well-respected, Tijuana-born designer Eugenio Velazquez (El Cubo Tijuana, Hotel Boutique Valle de Guadalupe) placed a similarly strong emphasis on the overall gastronomic experience that Barbusa provides, by fusing modern styles with an ancestral touch. Complete with a 40-foot white Italian marble carrara bar, a central 8-seat chef's table, and Andy Warhol-inspired art highlighting prominent Italian figures along the main dining room, the 4,200-square foot space also boasts indoor and outdoor dining options, set off by vertical bi-fold windows and a living wall. From a pizza oven hand-tiled by Joe Busalacchi himself, to an 8 by 8 foot clear display revealing hanging cured meats and a separate crudo/carpaccio bar near the restaurant’s entrance, the architectural footprint was meticulously designed to resemble a modern trattoria in Italy, with exposed aesthetics inviting guests to interact and linger in a relaxed, familiar setting.

Barbusa is located at 1917 India Street. For more information, visit and check out the dinner menu below.