Diners looking for a classic Italian experience need go no farther than the newly opened Anni Venti La Trattoria in Lemon Grove.
From the name on the front door to the menu options, the restaurant has deep ties to the heritage of its owners, Emanuele Gagliano and his two brothers.
The name is both a tribute to Gagliano’s family, who staff the restaurant, and a hint at the interior décor.
Emanuel Gagliano’s brother, Danilo Gagliano, is the chef. His brother, Francesco Gagliano, is a server, and his wife, Federica Morana, is a server. A cousin is the sous chef.
“We do everything,” Gagliano said. “It’s family. It’s a warm, family restaurant.”
The name of the restaurant comes from a restaurant of the same name owned by Gagliano’s father, Andrea Gagliano, in Bagheria, a small Italian town about 10 miles from Palermo.
“We tried to bring my father’s concept from Palermo to here,” Gagliano said, adding that he and his brothers learned the restaurant business working at their father’s side as teenagers.
“We grew up working there. I started like a bus boy, then runner, server and manager,” Gagliano said. “All the rest of my family is still running the place over there.”
Founded in 1980, the original restaurant in Italy stated as an ice cream parlor in a small warehouse.
The Gagliano brothers have built on that tradition in their Lemon Grove restaurant with a display window showing off gelatos and desserts made from recipes taken from their father’s restaurant.
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant that opened in March at 8099 Broadway has seating for 120 indoors with more tables on an outdoor patio and a private dining room for special events.
The menu includes steamed mussels and clams, spaghetti with clams and pistachios, pasta with shrimp, baked gnocchi with tomato and mozzarella, filet of steak, and roast chicken.
The philosophy of the cooking style is, what makes Italian food special “isn’t the fancy ingredients or over-the-top cooking techniques, but rather, an appreciation of simplicity and the balance of delicate flavors.”
In keeping with the family feel, Gagliano said that the menu includes lasagna, based on his grandmother’s recipe.
Emmanuele Gagliano moved to the United States with his wife in 2015, followed by Danilo Gagliano in 2019, and Francesco Gagliano in 2022.
“We said, ‘Let’s try this adventure in the U.S.,” Gagliano said. He said that he had ties to San Diego through a friend of his father’s, Vincenzo Loverso, who owns several restaurants in the region, and Gagliano started out working in Loverso’s Osteria Panevino in the Gaslamp Quarter.
The name of Gagliano’s Lemon Grove restaurant and that of his father’s means 20 years, a reference to the Liberty style of architecture that was popular in Italy in the early 1900s through the 1920s and adapted in the family restaurants.
The color pallet in Lemon Grove is pastel shades of green, beige and pink with colorful flowers and plants hanging from the ceiling.
There is an open kitchen, so diners can watch as their meals are prepared.
“You can see the pizza guy working, making the pizza,” Gagliano said. “If you go to Italy, that’s what you see.”
Anni Venti La Trattoria
Headquarters: Lemon Grove
Owner: Emanuele Gagliano
Notable: The Lemon Grove restaurant is modeled after one near Palermo, founded by the family patriarch