I Was Born & Raised in San Diego
- Written by Vince Bodie de la Mross
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Steak and Seafood in the Heart of Old San Diego
My grandfather roamed the streets of Little Italy as a young boy dressed in baggy pants and a ball cap, befriending fishermen and their wives alike while his Serbian-émigré-via-Ensenada mother tended to the old San Diego Hotel that she owned in downtown San Diego.
The street smarts he acquired via daily osmosis in this rich cultural milieu contributed essential wisdom that bore fruit throughout his long life. His playful, evenhanded toughness, vice grip handshake, biannual whiskey fueled Las Vegas craps table triumphs, and legendary prowess at deep sea sportfishing were a stunning combination of pure manhood which had to be witnessed to be believed.
And he was the only person I've ever known who laughed only on inhaling breaths, and in a vocal-cord-shredding cacophony not unlike a braying donkey, as if to inhale as much humor as possible into his lungs to fuel his flamboyant personality and hard working, hard charging lifestyle.
Commerical painting would become his vocation, and he was proud to be a founding member of the San Diego Painter's Union. As a test of his own mettle (and to put food on the table for his family) he would climb the KSON radio towers near the I-5/I-15 merge with a bucket and brush, and paint his way down. Without a harness or guide wire. This no doubt had quite a positive effect on his status amongst his fellow union members. Rites of passage exist in any pursuit worth taking up.
Sometimes he drove home from work in a company truck; one of their fleet of those really brutish and angry looking Dodge work trucks of the late 1950s or early '60s. They had giant ribbed bias ply tires like a tractor on enormous steel rims, four big doors that opened to reveal two giant bench seats that could seat six grown men, titanic service boxes at the rear, and a thick dark brown layer of dusty grime in every recess. They were dingy orange or a filthy gray-green, and whenever one came rumbling up the long driveway of his Chula Vista home, all us children would run shrieking out to greet it with a mixture of terror at the sound of the approaching beast and elation that our beloved grandpa was home.
So yes, I have a certain affection for San Diego's Little Italy district, and from the moment I laid eyes upon the Born & Raised Steak House, or more precisely inside of Born & Raised, I was in love - pure, unadulterated, blissful to the point of obsessive infatuation L-O-V-E. During its constructuction I surely must have a gone a fair stretch without stepping foot in Little Italy, because it seemed as if this Paean To All Things Steak just magically appeared out of the heavens one gorgeous San Diego day. One week it's a camera shop, the next week it's Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' dream come true.
Now I won't go into too much detail here about the sexy, curvaceous, Art Deco themed woodwork that is just absolutely amazingly stunning, or the omnipresent polished brass accents and fixtures that evoke a perfectly apropos nautical aire, or the oceanic appeal of the long, marbled granite bar fronted by a uniform row of comfy cool barber shop stools that disappear far off into the distance, or the sweet, soothing sounds of Wes Montgomery and friends pouring out of reel-to-reel tapes and vinyl LPs. Plenty of such glowing words have already been written in that regard, like this f'rinstance.
I'm just elated to see a place with this much panache showing up in my sleepy little hometown fishing village!
My grandpa left San Diego and this world for good just shy of his 93rd birthday. At age 90 he was still cranking monster tuna out of the great Pacific and holding a 180 average in the Chula Vista Elks bowling league. I have no doubt that a big part of his longetivity was due his love of a nice, fatty steak.
It's just too bad Born & Raised don't have tofu on the menu. At least then I'd have something bad to say about the place, sheesh. I only wish I could have taken my Papa there for a big fat steak.
Until next time,
p.s. - I shot these photos on film that I got processed at Nelson Photo. Yep, that camera shop.