RMD Group Partners With Hard Rock Hotel


If you’ve celebrated Halloween or New Year’s Eve at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego in the past year, you’ve already seen a glimpse of RMD’s work.

The team behind some of San Diego’s most popular venues such as FLUXX Nightclub, Rustic Root and Side Bar has entered a new full-time partnership with the musically-charged Hard Rock Hotel.

For the party people of San Diego, the news means this: RMD Group will take over managing 207 bar and Float Rooftop Lounge starting this month. You can expect more epic parties and updates to the hotel’s nightlife venues, as well as larger-than-life themes that the RMD Group has become most known for. For more information, visit

207 Fifth Ave., downtown.

Lamplighter Awards 2016

Congratulations to the 2016 Lamplighter Award Winners

Favorite Professional Service Provider
RMD Group Consulting

Favorite Brunch
Rustic Root

Favorite Pizza
Ciro’s Pizzeria & Beerhouse

Favorite Mexican, Latin, or Spanish Cuisine
Don Chido

2016 Sous Chef Showdown Winner
Michael Mora
Rustic Root

Black Friday Dining Deals

With Black Friday right around the corner, it’s time to start planning to get the best specials in town. Check out our picks for some of San Diego’s hottest Black Friday dining deals!

Rustic Root | San Diego, CA

A rooftop respite from the chaos of Black Friday, Rustic Root is an ideal place to rest those weary feet and enjoy half-priced appetizers and $2 off timeless cocktails and draft beers after shopping through the Gaslamp District. Serving fantastic rustic American / global comfort cuisine alongside drinks from an incredible craft cocktail program, Rustic Root is one of San Diego’s best destinations for Black Friday shoppers.

Don Chido | San Diego, CA

Set in the heart of the downtown and the Gaslamp District, Don Chido invites Black Friday shoppers to come in for half-off entradas and half-off all drinks from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Friday, November 25. Sip on an ice cold margarita in the sunshine on the patio, or raise a glass (or shot glass!) filled with a specially selected tequila recommended from Gabe Garza, the restaurant’s resident “Tequila Enthusiast.” Don Chido pairs home-style Mexican cuisine with a diverse, electric atmosphere that Black Friday shoppers will enjoy.

Let Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti Serenade You at Rustic Root

Come See Sal Valentinetti from America’s Got Talent on Nov. 12

Written By: Jordan Ligons Sal Valentinetti

Arrive at Rustic Root this Saturday Nov. 12 and prepare to be blown away. Starting at 10 p.m., Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti from NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” will put on an intimate concert in support of San Diego charities Songs for Shelter and It’s All About the Kids.

Valentinetti’s voice is truly unforgettable. He rocked the stage with at his audition and throughout his time on the hit singing series. Valentinetti’s Frank Sinatra-esque vibes shocked the crowd and the judges and he instantly became known as Heidi Klum’s “Golden Boy.” Klum was so moved by his performance that she hit the golden buzzer to send him straight through to Los Angeles.

Guest can enjoy an evening with the star performer as Rustic Root’s downstairs dining room will be turned into an intimate concert hall. Get ready to sip on specialty cocktails in honor of this special performance. Try the Heidi Klum’s Golden Boy cocktail, mixed with lemon juice, orange liqueur, Ketel One vodka, and blueberry syrup for $11. Other specialty drink options include: The Rat Pack, a blend of tin cup whiskey, angostura bitters, ginger beer, lemon juice, simple syrup and a lemon twist priced at $11; and The Dirty Martini Shot, Russian standard and olive juice garnished with a bleu cheese stuffed olive, priced at $7.

In honor of the season of giving, Rustic Root will be donating $2 from each specialty cocktail purchase as well as a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to San Diego charities Songs for Shelter—a local non-profit started by San Diego teen Ava Parisi that puts on concerts for teens by teens to shine light on youth homelessness in San Diego—and It’s All About The Kids, a non-profit organization that aids other children-focused charities to enhance the lives of less fortunate children and their families. Table minimums begin at $100 and reservations may be made by calling 619.878.3277.

Rustic Root
535 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

Where to drink and dine on your days off

by Keri Bridgwater

New Seasonal Menu: Rustic Root


Highlights from executive chef Marcel Childress’ new fall menu at this popular downtown destination include a bacon-wrapped Opah belly served with lobster cream sauce and Okinawan potato chips, steamed oxtail dumpling served with pork jus and a rustic shepherd’s pie made with braised lamb shoulder, mushroom, peas, carrot, pearl onion and Gruyere mash – perfect for when the weather eventually turns a little chillier. 535 5th Ave (619) 232 1747

Two-Ingredient Tequila Cocktails

The Mexican Cure-All

“In the old days, Mexican doctors would prescribe tequila to cure illnesses and colds. A common cold recipe would be tequila, cayenne, and lemon juice. It definitely works, tried and true many times over.” — Booze enchanter and manager at Rustic Root in San Diego, California.

1.5 oz Fortaleza Reposado tequila
.75 oz cayenne-infused lemon juice

1. Combine ingredients and pour over rocks.

San Diego is now one of our favorite restaurant and food cities and here’s why…

San Diego’s food scene officially rules. It was not so long ago that Southern California, the birthplace of fast food, once offered a pretty dismal showing in the way of awesome eating, but the time has now come when proud locals can tell food snobs visiting from San Francisco to go shove it. This list only scratches the surface, but it’s a worthy starting point. So do yourself a favor and ditch the In ‘n’ Out Burger (hint: they’re overrated) and check out one of these San Diego food hot spots instead.

Rustic Root

Places like Hooters and the Hard Rock Cafe are looking increasingly out of step in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, a former tourist trap turned turned hot spot thanks to new nightlife options and eateries like Searsucker, Double Standard and Rustic Root. The handsome, loft-like dining room at Rustic Root is the perfect place to settle in for a fine meal consisting of standards like a half-roasted chicken or double cut pork chop, but the mad stampede is for the generous and playful rooftop patio, a dream space for lounge lizards, booze hounds and, yes, topiary aficionados. Snag a spot on a balmy evening (hint: there are about 300 a year) or come for a scenic brunch consisting of scrambles, benedicts and lots of cocktails.

Batter up: Some baseball-themed drinks

The 1845 Cocktail at Rustic Root is named for the year when baseball appeared in the United States.

San Diego is quickly becoming as known for its cocktail culture as for its craft beer dominance on the national stage. All-Star Week is your chance to try some of the local mixologists’ favorite twists on the baseball theme, while visiting a few mandatory cocktail havens near Petco Park.

So put down that boring Jack & Coke, and pick up one of these concoctions:

1845 Cocktail, Rustic Root: This downtown locale mixed up a drink named after the year baseball made its appearance in the U.S. The 1845 is made with Grand Marnier, Fernet-Branca (a San Diego favorite), simple syrup and lemon juice, with an orange peel. Bask in our glorious weather while sipping this cocktail on the rustic-American rooftop lounge, just a few blocks away from Petco Park.

Not-So-Skinny Dipping

A buff bartender bulks up for bathing suit season


Having worked at venues around the city for the past decade, Chicago native Melissa Huegal is now flexing her bartending muscle at Club Flamingo. But for this recently converted gym rat, the real heavy lifting begins when the sun sets on the vintage-style swimfest, held Sundays this summer at LOUNGEsix atop Hotel Solamar in East Village.

PacificSD: What’s awesome about working at Club Flamingo?
MELISSA HUEGAL: I really enjoy working outside. Being a bartender, you tend to work long, dark, night hours a lot. This is refreshing, with the sunshine, outdoor air and beautiful skyline overlooking Petco Park.

Do you wear a bikini while working?
It’s not a two-piece, so it’s not a bikini, but it is a bathing suit.

Is that weird for you?
Not really. I’m training for a figure competition. That’s kind of my hobby, so I spend a lot of time posing in a bikini anyway. And that’s actually a lot less material than my work uniform.

How did you get into bodybuilding?
I used to be really, really thin my whole life. Like, really thin. But I started lifting weights last May. It felt really good, and I stuck with it. Then I ran into a coach that I really clicked with, and now we’re best friends. They started a team called Team JCreation and asked if I wanted to do a show. I said, “Yes, absolutely.” It’s nice to have a goal and something you’re training toward.

What do you like most about bodybuilding?
I like the challenge. This pre-season, I put on about 40 pounds of mostly muscle, which is something I never thought I’d do. And I didn’t do it by eating fast food or drunk food or anything. I eat whole foods and well-rounded meals all day, and to gain that much weight that way is a bit harder. No one’s called me skinny in about six months. Even the weight of what I can lift now compared to a year ago is like three or four times as much.

What do you do when you aren’t behind the bar or lifting one?
I foster dogs pretty frequently. Basically, when dogs need to get rescued from shelters in other counties where they’re going to get killed, the rescue groups I volunteer with pick the dogs up, and I house them or help get them adopted. I clean them up and get them ready for their forever home. I’ve helped about 20 dogs so far.

Are you a beach person or a pool person?
I’d say a pool person. I love the beach and I love the ocean, but I’m not a huge fan of the sand everywhere. I prefer a swim-up bar and valet parking.

What are the most popular drinks at Club Flamingo?
People seem to like cold shots of silver tequila on a sunny, summer day. Then we have these little pink-flamingo drink holders, and all the girls are crazy about any drink that fits in a pink-flamingo drink holder. Girls are literally coming up to the bar like, “I’ll take that pink flamingo drink.” And I’m like, “That’s not a drink, babe.”

Wet your whistle, along with everything else, Sundays all summer long at Club Flamingo. The party kicks off weekly at 11 a.m. with a (partially) farm-to-table brunch — just wait 45 minutes before getting in the water after eating.

Club Flamingo at LOUNGEsix
435 Sixth Ave., East Village

All in La Famiglia

The story behind an Italian restaurant for (and by) the generations.


Photos by Kate and Michael Auda

Like some siblings do, a brainchild can come as a complete surprise.

Such was the case with Salvucci’s, the new Italian sister to RMD Group’s growing roster of venerable venues.

“We weren’t ready to do another restaurant, but when this location [formerly Común] came along, we couldn’t pass it up,” says Mike Georgopoulos, the “M” in RMD Group, which also owns and operates FLUXX, Side Bar, Ciro’s Pizzeria, Don Chido, Rustic Root and Pop’s Liquor Cabinet. “And I’ve been dying to do Italian.”

Georgopoulos’ “dying” to do Italian stems from his having grown up in an Italian family in Watertown, Mass., a Boston suburb, where meals at Grandmother Carmella Salvucci Renzella’s house were daily delights.

At Salvucci’s, located by Petco Park at Ninth Avenue and J Street in East Village, the menu exudes rich flavors and rich family history. It’s where recipes from generations of the clan (which first laid domestic roots when Loreto and Pasqua Salvucci emigrated to the U.S. from San Donato, Italy, in the 1930s) live on. And there’s an on-site matriarch to make sure they do so.

To maintain his grandmother’s culinary standards, Georgopoulos recruited the next logical choice: his mother, Darlene Renzella, who has joined the team as host, ensuring patrons receive a warm welcome from a loving Italian mother.

“Mom also makes sure the sauce is right,” says Georgopoulos. “And the meatballs.”

Salvuccis Pacific

His uncles (Mom’s brothers) Dave and Dan Renzella, who represent the “D” in RMD Group, are partners in the project, as is East Village hospitality honcho Ken Lovi, founder of the neighborhood’s The Knotty Barrel Gastropub and co-owner of Don Chido and Rustic Root.

Plump packages of pleasure shaped from well-seasoned beef and pork and dressed with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, Salvucci’s meatballs share table space with other East Coast Italian favorites. Standouts from the appetizer column include fried/breaded cheese ravioli in pomodoro sauce and hand-rolled gnocchi with fragrant pesto. Georgopoulos’ fave entrée is the creamy polenta, which flows with either woodsy mushroom sauce or Bolognese ragu.

Other recipes harkening back to the homeland (in Boston and Italy) include pizzas, elegant pies built on Neapolitan-style crusts. The polpetta sposata, which sports such toppings as ricotta, mozzarella, basil and deluxe San Marzano tomato sauce, features a crowning glory: Salvucci’s pride-of-place meatballs, arranged like juicy jewels.

“We’re not chef-driven, we’re food- and relationship-driven,” says Georgopoulos. “So, if every night at Salvucci’s feels like Sunday with the family, welcome home.”

Derek DiNublia, a chef who cooked at several of celebrity chef Todd English’s (host of Food Trip, on PBS) famed Boston-area eateries before heading west to join his longtime Bean Town buddy (Georgopoulos) at Side Bar, oversees the kitchen.

“We use the Salvucci family recipes to make the menu wonderful,” says DiNublia. “We’re all about from-scratch cooking, homemade breads, homemade pastas and made-from-scratch desserts.”

So dig in. Mom’s already expecting you to order seconds. Buon appetito!


Pacific Shoot May - Salvucci's

At Salvucci’s, located by Petco Park at Ninth Avenue and J Street in East Village, the menu exudes rich flavors and rich family history.  It’s where recipes from generations of clan (which first laid domestic roots when Loreto and Pasqua Salvucci emigrated to the U.S. from San Donato, Italy, in the 1930’s) live on.  And there’s an on-site matriarch to make sure they do so.