Esca Blu All-Day Italian Restaurant Unveils In San Diego's Hillcrest

June 6, 2023

The chef/owner behind San Diego's popular Cocina de Barrio Mexican restaurants has opened a new modern Italian concept in Hillcrest named Esca Blu.

In November 2019, Chef Jose J. Flores teamed up with Swami's Cafe founder Jaime Osuna to open the first Cocina de Barrio restaurant in San Diego's Hillcrest community. In its nearly two year tenure, the all-day eatery has received rave reviews for its menu of Oaxacan-style Mexican cuisine. A second Cocina de Barrio opened last year in the space that previously housed a Swami's Cafe on West Point Loma Boulevard in the Midway area of Point Loma. The company is also working on the opening of a North County location in Encinitas.

Earlier this year, Chef Flores took over the space previously occupied by La Taverna on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest, which sits less than 300 feet from Cocina de Barrio, for the opening of Esca Blu. Soft opening today, Esca Blu will offer a menu of modern Italian cuisine including daily brunch options, inventive appetizers, fresh made pasta, Neapolitan pizza and Italian entrees, as well as a full bar offering a selection of craft cocktails, beer and wine. 

Menu highlights from the brunch menu include Canolli French Toast with fresh fruit; Biscotti Pancakes with Amaretto cream, fresh fruit and biscotti crumbles; Brunch Pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pancetta, salame, and sunny side up eggs; and the Cacciatora Omelette with sausage, pancetta, bell pepper, mushroom and mozzarella. For dinner, expect dishes like Fritto Esca Blu with fried calamari, anchovies, shrimp, onion, zucchini and potato; Tagliatelle Fra Diavola filled with shrimp, calamari, black mussels, spinach and spicy tomato sauce; the Salsiccia e Rapinni pizza topped with tomato sauce, sausage, potato, and onion rapini; and Guancia di Mazo featuring braised beef cheek over soft polenta sided by baby carrots and rapini. 

Esca Blu is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 3pm and Sunday from 9am to 4pm for brunch, and Tuesday through Saturday from 3-9pm for dinner. The restaurant is located at 3650 Fifth Avenue in San Diego's Hillcrest community. For more information, follow Esca Blu on Instagram