Meet the Former Tennis Pro Who’s Bringing the Amazon to Downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego’s Newest Restaurant, Pachamama, Will Be Your Favorite Everyday Eatery

Written By: Alysha Haran
Photographed By: Manny Mendez Pachamama San Diego

It’s a well-known fact that opening a restaurant is not for the faint of heart, but Vick Vannucci has never been one to shy away from what most people consider a challenge.The Argentinean-born Italian is a former tennis pro who was ranked No. 1 in the nation by the time she was a teenager. Although she eventually retired from the sport, she never stopped striving for excellence. “I’ve achieved a great deal in life and won many titles, but nothing is more important than the day I became a mother,” Vick told us. Now, she has her sights set on another type of victory—to see her children, the community and the planet thrive. This is where Pachamama comes in. 

Directly translated, Pachamama (Pah-cha-ma-ma) means “Mother Earth” in Spanish. It’s a fitting title, since the inspiration came from the simple act of giving her daughter an apple. “I realized in that moment that I wasn’t just giving her food. I was transferring my love and energy through an ingredient that comes from Mother Earth.” The perspective she held as an elite athlete—that food equals fuel—was changed for good. But that change didn’t happen overnight.  Pachamama San Diego

Ten years ago, Vick Vannucci was photographed standing next to several animals she and her then-husband hunted while on safari in Africa. The world was outraged and the media was unforgiving. “When I saw myself in those pictures, I realized it was time for a serious change.” What followed was three years of hard work and a lot of honesty. She understood that while she could not change the past, she could make up for it by pouring her energy into something that would change the world for good. Pachamama is not just a business built on her renewed values and ethics, it’s a symbol of the transformation we all seek as human beings.

It started in her kitchen around a stately marble island. With natural light flooding in and music bouncing off a lofty wood-paneled ceiling, she began experimenting with ingredients, not recipes. Considering a vegetable’s origin or a fruit’s flavor, she mixed and matched until a dish emerged. Once it received the stamp of approval from her children, it got added to the list. Though her travels took her around the world and exposed her to a variety of food and cultures, it was South America—specifically the Amazon—that eventually captured her palate.

To help bring her vision to life, she has teamed with Chef Ernesto Moreno, a native San Diegan who spent his culinary career exploring different cuisines throughout Southern California. “He took hundreds of my recipe ideas and turned them into a curated menu that perfectly expresses who I am and what my values are,” Vick says. “Our restaurant is focused on giving our community an experience of the Amazon through the beauty and vitality of its cuisine and culture.” A few of the dishes that offer a look into this underexplored part of the world include Andean cancha, which is like a giant toasted corn nut that is crispy with a savory lime taste, and quinoa chaufa, her version of a Peruvian-style fried grain with a blend of ginger and garlic that boasts an herbaceous profile of scallions and cilantro. Pachamama San Diego

As important as what is served in the restaurant, however, is the community it serves. Vick wasn’t interested in a restaurant that would blend into the backdrop of downtown. “This shouldn’t be a ‘once in a while’ or ‘one-time’ experience. We want people to eat here every day.” Melissa Young and her team at MY Studio ID helped to translate her vision for the look and feel of the space. The restaurant decor is warm yet modern, minimal but inviting, and it has a special touch that speaks to the importance of Vick’s vision: a table just for children, where they can participate in the creation of their meal in order to develop an understanding and appreciation for how food is grown and prepared. “With the direction we are moving in as a world and as a [species], it is important to teach the future generations how to be good stewards of Mother Earth.”

When asked what she hopes her guests will experience within the walls of Pachamama, she smiles and explains, “I want them to feel the love and energy that is a part of my life. My success, my failures—everything that has led me to this moment. I want them to feel nourished from the inside out. I want them to feel as if Mother Nature herself prepared their meal.” 

Pachamama is a fully sustainable restaurant that sources ingredients from local farms and supports animal kindness and ecosystem restoration. San Diego’s newest organic and earth-reverent restaurant is now open. 

3737 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92126

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