Founder and chef Rebecca A. Bernstein operates Cioccolata di Vino with the belief that her delectable desserts and enticing antipasti taste particularly divine in a laid-back, warm setting that resembles a hammock made of cocoons. The soft lighting envelops patrons in a gracious embrace, where it's perfectly acceptable to stop by just for the blissful dessert menu. Choco-hounds flock to the succulent molten lava cake ($6.95), where a moist, spongy coating covers a warm liquid chocolate, generating a cocoa magma stream down Mt. Esophagus. Candy up your kisser with the award-winning, gooey chocolate-chip cookies (three for $3.95), which arrive packed with rich Callebaut Belgian chocolate and slivers of pecan. The light but feisty lemon tart ($6.95) is crowned with a fresh whipped cream, while the rich gelati and sorbetti ($4.95) rotate their flavors daily and their buckskin capes fortnightly.
Have a look at Casa Vino's massive by-the-glass wine list and dinner menu upon entry, minimizing the time needed to order an appetizer such as its classic escargot ($8.50). Have a glass of California barbera from Valley of the Moon ($8) with a choice-cut rib-eye steak (with mushrooms and grilled onions, served with the vegetable of the day and choice of fries, mashed potatoes, or rice pilaf, $23.95), or pair a Russian River pinot noir ($8 glass) with a hearty, herbivore-friendly portabella-mushroom sandwich ($8). For dessert, partner an order of cinnamon flan ($6) with a sparkling glass of Domaine Carneros brut ($13) for a tag team that could best André the Giant.
Within the Winery Collective's multi-winery tasting room, grape savants uncork the flavorful nuances of liquid harvests hailing from more than 2 dozen of California's boutique wineries from Santa Barbara to Napa Valley. Winemakers and enthusiasts guide palates through wine-flight menus, which are culled from the more than 100 vinos that line the tasting room's walls and, like the political views of a housecat, change daily. The Winery Collective also hosts private and semiprivate parties and corporate events, during which guests mingle and sip in a lofted earth-toned lounge outfitted with crisscrossing wooden shelves that display colorful wine bottles and shapely decanters.
In many ways, Café Divine is a shrine to Italy: its specialty pizzas, which are fired in an Italian oven, all have names that reference Dante's Inferno. The North Beach bistro occupies an Italianate building; look up at the ceiling and you'll notice brass chandeliers that were made specially in Italy. Not to be outdone, the bar is made of Italian marble.
Naturally, a lot of the food here draws from Italian traditions, but they’re only part of the total culinary equation. Helmed by chef David Wees, the kitchen uses organic and local ingredients to craft entrees that range from slow-braised beef bourguignonne to smoked-trout salad. You can finish off your meal with a fresh cup of espresso and one of Café Divine's homemade desserts. Decadent treats include caramel-drenched ginger cake à la mode and flourless chocolate cake.
Café Divine supports local musical artists, too. You can catch live accordion music on Mondays. Other acts have included ragtime guitarist Craig Ventresco and bassist Chris Amberger.
Established in 2009, The Vin Club—which grew out of proprietor Dario Zucconi’s background in producing handcrafted wines—pairs a rotating roster of more than 20 globetrotting vinos with a European-style café and upscale supper club. Once home to such bygone speakeasies as the Blue Moon Café, the contemporary lounge now features 12-foot ceilings and hand-blown pendant lights that glint off a wooden bar custom-built from wine-box tops and the finest chunks of the Trojan horse. Plumbing small artisan vineyards from California to Italy, The Vin’s experts handpick wines from terroir-focused producers to ensure high-quality glassfuls. Handmade salami headlines charcuterie plates at The Vin’s café, where artisanal cheeses and oven-baked eats accompany platters laden with homemade desserts. Echoing croons from Bay Area jazz musicians bounce off the dining room’s spread of local artwork during Friday-night supper clubs, where patrons can indulge in elegant cuisine while raising glasses to the toe-tapping spirit of Louis Armstrong.