Category Archives: Press

New restaurant concepts in San Diego are big and ambitious

By JENNIFER McENTEE, Special to The Daily Transcript

Some of the biggest names in San Diego’s hospitality scene are revealing fresh offerings in the coming months, from big remodels to new construction.

The new rooftop restaurant Rustic Root is set to open on Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter in early June.

Rustic Root is a project by RMD Group, hospitality entrepreneur Ken Lovi and executive chef Antonio Friscia. The same bunch is behind Don Chido, a Mexican eatery that opened in the Gaslamp Quarter last summer.

Rustic Root is slated to offer “rustic” American cuisine, with dishes such as elk chops, fried chicken, lobster pappardelle and furikake-crusted hamachi.

The new venue is being billed as the Gaslamp Quarter’s only dedicated rooftop restaurant, though it will have multiple levels: a 2,500-square-foot rooftop space, and a 500-square-foot downstairs patio that opens to a 2,500-square-foot dining room and bar.

OCIO Design Group is the architect alongside RMD Group’s construction division RMD Development. Interior design for Rustic Root is by Davis Ink Ltd. and includes a giant Sudoku wall, life-sized animal topiary bushes and street-style lamps.

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Rustic Root Combines Classic Cuisine With Craft Cocktail Shots

by , photos by Bradley Schweit

Rustic Root Restaurant - Eater

Another of Eater’s Most Anticipated Openings of 2015 has soft launched in the Gaslamp; RMD Group, local nightlife specialists (FLUXX, Sidebar) who’ve transitioned into restaurateurs, along with Ken Lovi of The Knotty Barrel and executive chef/partner Antonio Friscia, have reteamed up to open their second food-focused project, Rustic Root, in the 2,500-square-foot space adjacent to their Mexican-influenced Don Chido.

The Davis Ink Ltd-designed eatery, which is now open daily for dinner, opens up to a 500-square-foot sidewalk patio; inside, a collection of colanders hang above a lounge area that gives way a to a mirrored dining room holding a wall-sized crossword puzzle and communal table made of rolling pins.

Friscia’s menu is a mix of classic American dishes with modern twists. The surf & turf pairs quail egg-topped beef tartare with hamachi sashimi, steamed mussels get an addition of uni better and elk chops come with mole and almond-chili puree. For anyone who missing his take on Asian plates at the now-shuttered Gaijin, Friscia’s carnitas “bao bao” sliders reappear here.

The cocktail program include craftier versions of shots, from a gin Gimlet to Manhattan Brunch, that each come with a custom garnish and can be also ordered in regular cocktail sizes. A signature drink menu concentrates on the classics, including the 1930 Sazerac and the 1941 Moscow mule. Rustic Root will expand into brunch shortly, and in mid-June, will launch the second half of the restaurant, an equally-sized rooftop lounge space, perched above 5th Avenue, that will have its own bar, kitchen and menu.

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Locally Sourced Fare at Rustic Root

Rustic Root to Boast Gaslamp Quarter’s Only Dedicated Rooftop Restaurant

Rustic-Root- San Diego Food Finds

Award-Winning RMD Group, Hospitality Expert Ken Lovi and Executive Chef/Partner Antonio Friscia to Launch Second Restaurant Venture in the Gaslamp Quarter

RMD Group, the innovative development and management team behind recognized venues including mega-club FLUXX, along with Ken Lovi, founder and CEO of Knotty Barrel Gastropub, and Executive Chef / Partner Antonio Friscia will open Rustic Root in May 2015 in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. Following the successful opening of their first venture, Don Chido, which opened in June 2014, Rustic Root is set to become the Gaslamp Quarter’s only dedicated rooftop restaurant.

“Rustic Root marks our second restaurant venture in Downtown San Diego, and it is important to us that we continue to showcase both our culinary creativity and conceptual range,” said Michael Georgopoulos, RMD Group partner. “Rustic Root combines our reputation for service with Ken Lovi’s expertise and Chef Antonio Friscia’s culinary talent, and we’re confident it will elevate Downtown San Diego’s dining scene with a unique menu and unparalleled guest experience.”

True to its name, Rustic Root will showcase a dynamic menu of rustic American cuisine with a spotlight on locally sourced meats, produce and seafood and house-made ingredients, from Executive Chef Antonio Friscia and his culinary team. The Rustic Root menu will be anchored by signature staples including the double cut, bone-in pork chop with apple rhubarb chutney and parsnip puree, other highlights from the menu will include the seared Hamachi, elk chops and a unique twist on the classic surf & turf dish, featuring steak tartar and Hamachi crudo.  With over 25 years of culinary industry experience, Executive Chef Friscia’s dedication to using local and regional purveyors, as well as organic and sustainable suppliers can be seen throughout his careful selection of ingredients.

Rustic Root - San DIego Food Finds 2

Signature dishes will complement a unique menu of craft cocktails thoughtfully created by Consulting Mixologist Garth Flood.  A member of the U.S. Bartenders Guild and most notably known for his current role as beverage director at San Diego hotspot Cowboy Star, Flood has created a unique cocktail menu that will include playful spins on timeless, iconic and classic cocktails.  Paying tribute to the year the cocktail was created, Rustic Root’s cocktail program will include timeless cocktails such as the “1980” cosmopolitan, the “1941” mule, the “1902” daiquiri and the “1830” sazarac, also known as America’s original cocktail, to name a few.  Another standout element of the new cocktail program will be signature craft cocktail shots—sip-size versions of cocktail classics, including the Manhattan, Negroni, Gimlet and Old Fashioned, finished with a variety of curated garnishes.

Designed by the visionary and nationally acclaimed interior design team at Davis Ink Ltd., the multi-level Rustic Root will include a 500 square-feet downstairs patio that opens to the main dining room on the lower floor as well as a rooftop space that will also serve food and be home to its own dedicated bar.  The 2,500 square-feet main dining area will feature a life-sized Sudoku wall, lighting features that include overhead colander lamps and street-style lamps that pay homage to the Gaslamp’s signature street lamps. The equally sized 2,500 square-feet rooftop space will be dotted with life-size animal topiary bushes, all set under glowing market lights. OCIO Design Group has also been hired on as the architect alongside RMD Development—RMD Group’s construction division.

Rustic Root will serve dinner daily starting at 4 p.m. in the restaurant and rooftop, and a late-night menu on the rooftop. Rustic Root is located at 535 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101.  For more information on Rustic Root, please visit:

Connect with Rustic Root on Facebook, or follow Rustic Root on Twitter @RusticRootSD and Instagram @RusticRootSD.

About RMD Group

With more than 50 years of combined experience in the industry, RMD Group has emerged as a driving force in the nightlife and entertainment industry.  They have designed and developed a thriving collection of hospitality and lifestyle destinations that include award-winning FLUXX nightclub in San Diego.  Venturing further into the hospitality industry, RMD Group opened their first restaurant, Don Chido, in May 2014 and looks forward to opening their second restaurant, Rustic Root almost one year later.  RMD’s extensive expertise in design, development, management and A-list talent continues to elevate the level of effectiveness the hospitality industry can attain.

About Ken Lovi

Ken Lovi, CEO and founder of The Knotty Barrel Gastropub, brings more than 25 years of experience in management and ownership.  Having opened over 12 pubs, fine dining restaurants and nightclubs over his career, Lovi’s focus on menu development, service and management recruiting led him to become vice president and managing partner of Moose Restaurant Group, where he served for 15 years, before moving on to establish The Knotty Barrel Gastropub.

Rustic Root Plants Two Levels of Dining & Drinking in the Gaslamp


Rustic Root - RMD Development - Eater

It’s set to open in early May.

Behind this barrier, Rustic Root is putting the finishing touches on its new space in the Gaslamp, which occupies the former Marble Room site and could soft open as early as next week.

The 2,500-square-foot restaurant will share a kitchen with the adjacent Don Chido, which owners RMD Group and Ken Lovi of The Knotty Barrel opened last June. RMD Group, which runs several popular nightlife spots in town, including FLUXX and Sidebar, says they don’t plan to open more clubs in San Diego but intend to continue to expand their restaurant holdings, with two more eateries in the works for 2016.

Rustic Root’s menu, in the hands of its immensely capable executive chef Antonio Friscia, centers around “rustic American cuisine”, sourced locally, that spans the melting pot of cultures. There are deviled eggs, fried chicken and burgers, plus chicken liver mousse and firecracker shrimp with sriracha mayo. Friscia’s Italian heritage comes into play via housemade pasta, from ravioli with walnuts and butternut squash to lobster pappardelle.

The restaurant will open for dinner nightly, with brunch on weekends, and plans to have a bustling late night bar service; notable barman Garth Flood, Cowboy Star’s beverage director, consulted on a menu of classic drinks names after the year they were created. The traditional recipes range from the “1927” Boulevardier to the “1944” Mai Tai, with the most recent entry, the Cosmopolitan, from 1980. Flood also came up with seven craft cocktail shots with a custom garnishes; a Margarita shot has a mezcal-soaked lime wedge while the Martini shot comes with a blue cheese-stuffed olive. Matt Hunter (Bar Basic, URBN) will manage the bar program, which includes 16 taps of exclusively local beer.

Davis Ink Ltd. designed the space, which opens up to a 500-square-foot sidewalk patio. Inside, there’s a range of communal tables, banquette seating, booths and bar height tables; a large-scale crossword puzzle dominates one wall with mirrors throughout and a cluster of overturned colanders, doubling as lampshades, hang from the ceiling.

On the roof, another 2,500-square-feet of dining and drinking will be ready to launch in June. A retractable roof will enable the space, that includes fireplaces, lounge seating, light features and giant animal-shaped topiary bushes, to be used year-round. Another kitchen will cook up a menu of 14 appetizers and salads, though the entire menu can be ordered upstairs and delivered by dumbwaiter.

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The 30 Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of Spring 2015

By Zagat Staff

Rustic Root - Zagat 3.15

Zagat – 2015’s Most Anticipated San Diego Restaurants

Rustic Root
RMD Group and Ken Lovi of The Knotty Barrel are bringing local, farm-fresh brunches, dinners and late-night eats to a Gaslamp rooftop (pictured) this spring. Under the helm of executive chef Antonio Friscia, look for rustic American cuisine using local produce and housemade ingredients. There’s not much info about specific dishes from the restaurant’s website, only the promise of “timeless food and cocktails” as well as hints of San Francisco influences as seen by Frisca.
When: May
Where: 535 Fifth Ave.

The Dish: 3 new restaurants on tap

By Pam Kragen

Rustic Root

Rustic Root, a new rustic American restaurant concept, will open its doors in May at 535 Fifth Ave. in the Gaslamp.

The dinner-only rooftop restaurant will be the second Gaslamp eatery opened by partners RMD Group, Ken Lovi and executive chef/partner Antonio Friscia. Their first collaboration was Don Chido, a modern Mexican restaurant which opened last June.

“Rustic Root combines our reputation for service with Ken Lovi’s expertise and Chef Antonio Friscia’s culinary talent, and we’re confident it will elevate downtown San Diego’s dining scene with a unique menu and unparalleled guest experience,” said Michael Georgopoulos, RMD Group partner.

Rustic Root’s menu will feature locally sourced meats, produce and seafood and house-made ingredients. Signature items will include a double cut, bone-in pork chop with apple rhubarb chutney and parsnip purée, seared Hamachi, elk chops and a unique twist on the classic surf and turf dish, featuring steak tartar and Hamachi crudo.

“This is my food. It will draw from the coastal influences I grew up with in San Francisco, and combine them with the techniques and flavors that I have come to appreciate throughout my career,” Friscia said.

The restaurant will also have a craft cocktail menu designed by Garth Flood.

Rustic Root will serve dinner daily starting at 4 p.m. in the restaurant and rooftop, and a late-night menu on the rooftop. Visit: .