‘2051 Cucina Italiana’ staying at Cielo Village

Cielo Village/Ben Sevier

Che bello! Following a successful 2-month pop-up run at Tuscany-themed Cielo Village, the boys from Bologna are staying through spring at 18021 Calle Ambiente #506, just around the corner from Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protetion District offices.

Omar Possenti and Simone Guidotti took their Carlsbad authentic Etruscan dining experience to The Ranch just before Thanksgiving as their space near Palomar Airport was being renovated.

Originally envisioned as a temporary home, the Rancho Santa Fe space with a beautiful outdoor dining patio has done the upscale dining experience at reasonable prices right, according to locals who have flocked there like swallows to Capistrano.

It’s a cheery, authentic Italian foodie outpost featuring handmade pasta dishes, focaccia, fresh organic produce salads, scrumptious tiramisu and salame dolce desserts, and more, at prices that are right. A family of four can eat to their heart’s content with salads at around $10, entrees between $12-$16, focaccia at around $10 and desserts at $7.

“2051 was born from the love of the Italian way of life,” said Possenti as he scrambled to serve pop up customers around the sprawling outside patio fronting Crosby Estate, Robin Shull and his family’s historic Paradise Produce Market (aka The Lemon Twist) and pristinely winding hiking trails through Del Dios Gorge.

“In Italy, everybody knows that we are a reflection of what we eat and drink, from the morning coffee to the evening wine,” Possenti said. “Therefore, our main focus is, and always will be, the quality of each and every product that we offer.”

Omar Possenti taking care of business Thanksgiving Day at his new Cielo Village Italian restaurant/Escondido Grapevine

Catch it while you can through at least March. The pop up pops in for (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) lunch and (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) dinner service, Monday to Saturday. For more about the 2051 Cucina Italiana experience, visit https://www.2051cucinaitaliana.com.

Guidotti, who managed Vigilucci’s restaurants around Carlsbad and Leucadia previously, which many pasta lovers can attest to be top-flight Italian cuisine, said he was thrilled with the reception to date, hopeful that come spring the partners, investors and staff will remain at the large kitchen and space even after their Carlsbad location is renovated.

Here is hoping to that. Just the fact the cucina, which is kitchen in Italian, has thrived so far is a testament to the friendly, fun, and great tasting experience.

Other attempts to fill the space with food and good cheer have not been nearly so hailed and have gone farewell.

The trouble with Cielo

Cielo Village’s unique Tuscany-themed boutique shopping and office center just below the massively upscale residential Cielo development has represented the stuff of legend, not to mention abandoned dreams.

The housing development of multimillion dollar estates and infinity pools across sprawling properties was begun just before the California real estate market went bust in the early 1990s. Through the years and even bankruptcies, development managers soldiered on, attracting high-end residents and what now seems to be a prosperous future of large homes and big dreams.

Much of the shopping center space has been unfilled over the years, from time to time attracting an eclectic list of clientele who have come and gone like the whizzing traffic along busy Del Dios Highway below.

Center officials have tried a variety of publicity and visitor attracting ventures including a disastrous 2013 farmer’s market, a black tie invitation-only opening night with chamber orchestra and fashion models and several “now open” events.

Nothing seemed to work.

“Nobody went there to shop,” said a disappointed Zion Yohannes, owner of Z Private Post, one of but three active merchants in 2013. Her business went bust within mere months.

The 50,114-square-foot office and retail center in front of Cielo’s main gate at 18055 Calle Ambiente was the first local shopping center opened since since Del Rayo Village in 1990 and Fairbanks Village Plaza. It officially opened in 2007, although the center was fully complete in 2005.

Early tenants were enthusiastic although analysts were skeptical.

A musician plays to the vendors at Cielo Village’s ill-fated 2013 farmer’s market/Ah-Ha RSF News

“The key to making these mixed-use centers work is destination retail,” said George Whalin, president and chief executive officer of Carlsbad-based Retail Management Consultants. Whalin has been a key North County retail analyst since 1987.

“Demographics are demographics,” Whalin continued. “It doesn’t matter if the people surrounding the center have a lot of money. The key is to draw consumers to the destination.”

Another problem proved to be the physical placement of the center.

“In the ideal situation, the shopping center is on the side of the street where people are passing by on their way home from work,” Whalin said.

Cielo Village is on the opposite end of the homeward commuting traffic. And besides, Caltrans traffic studies have shown two-thirds of vehicles driven along Del Dios Highway during commuter times carry people to-and-from Riverside County, some 40 miles to the northeast.

While nobody came to Cielo Village, several shops, however, came and went.

Privateer Clothing, Prato Cleaners, Decanter Restaurant, a fitness center and an upscale lady’s shoes store, each went out of business. Harvest Ranch Market posted a liquor license application, but never opened. Even an attorney’s office opened and closed in the blink of an eye.

With that said, a tenant breakthrough occurred in 2010 when the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District moved its administrative offices there, just across the street from one of its fire stations. Since then, the center appears to be about half-filled with various real estate and attorney offices, a wedding boutique and fashion store along with some private and financial offices.

Food experiences at the village, however, have represented a long day’s journey into oblivion. A coffee shop space, now operating as Invita’ Cafe, has housed eight similar shops since 2005. The upscale, unique restaurant space next door has housed at least six culinary attempts during that time.

The future is now for Omar Possenti and Simone Guidotti

This time, however, Possenti, Guidotti and company seem to be in the right place at the right time. Area population has grown. More people know about the place. Cielo Village has more foot traffic than ever.

Even better for the latest stab at the Cielo food market, Possenti features high quality Italian fare at, what is unique for Cielo and Rancho Santa Fe eateries, actual fair and reasonable prices.

The boys from Bologna seem to have a true love of the food, the culture and his clientele. Guidotti handles the kitchen with the team that came together in 2017 for its successful Carlsbad location. Earlier this year, they joined forces with experienced restauraters Giacomo Giovanetti and Simo Vazzali to take their efforts to the next level.

“Now formed of four individuals born in the same Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, 20151 Cucina Italiana welcomes everybody to an original Italian dining experience,” Possenti said.

The menu is displayed above. Give its socially distanced outdoor experience a go during the next few weeks of the covid-adjusted holiday season. As someone who will go nameless once said, but this time in a much more positive context: What have you got to lose.

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