Every day at Toast Enoteca & Cucina, Mario Gonzalez performs a brilliant balancing act between tradition and innovation. Having trained in Italy under renowned chefs, he's mastered the fundamentals of Italian cooking, and his expertise shines in homemade pastas, sauces, and breads. However, his knack for experimentation has also led to modern showstoppers, such as pizza topped with octopus ragu. These meals have made his name synonymous with San Diego's Italian food scene?and secured him a job as a caterer for the San Diego Padres whenever the team has trouble firing up the dugout smoker.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Gonzalez's balancing act, however, is the wine. Toast has up to 400 wines on its award-winning list, with varietals from New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, and Spain in addition to Italy. But this classic accompaniment to dinner is often delivered in what looks like a science-fiction device: an Enomatic machine, designed to pour wine by the glass while keeping it fresh within the bottle.
Olivetto Ristorante and its owner Angelo Fiore welcome patrons with homey ambiance and selection of modern Italian fare influence by classic recipes. In 2008, the San Diego Reader claimed "it has all the virtues of a 'neighborhood Italian joint' ? warmth, spirit, informality, prices not too bad ? but the food is better than most," and Zagat's menu rating of "very good to excellent" supports this assertion. They make their own ravioli and pesto in-house and bake fresh loaves of bread. To accompany meals, the caf? also features a wine selection with refreshing whites and heartier reds from around the world, including authentic Italian offerings. Olivetto welcomes any meeting, from business get-togethers to romantic dinners.
The fare is always fresh at T-Deli, where chefs source their ingredients from local markets each day. Using family recipes, they pull these ingredients together to craft custom-made roast beef sandwiches, avocado BLTs, and a selection of tortas, including chipotle chicken with jack cheese. Other light options include salads, wraps, and quesadillas, all of which pair with hot and cold teas, smoothies, and even sangria.
Operacaffe translates the impeccable flavors of Northern Italian fare into beautiful culinary presentations just as easily as it melts opera and caffe into one tangy word. The hand-picked wines rest firmly on solid wooden tables, setting the foundation for an intimate dining experience. Brick walls frame the surrounding views of green nature and incoming sunlight that punctuate any romantic gathering or refined outing with a rustic flourish.
With room for only 20 oenophiles within its tasting quarters, Proprietor’s Reserve Wine Bar crafts a menu of regional dishes designed to complement the establishment's colossal selection of wines. The next tasting event, the Best of France meal, features six Franco-influenced dishes and six carefully matched wines, with each bite and sip enhancing the other in a flavorsome tag-team taste-bud assault. Past dinners have highlighted the cuisine of other regions, including South Africa, a meal that boasted unique small plates and entrees such as diced chicken slathered in apricot-ginger sauce and wine-braised short ribs with crème fraiche smashed potatoes, and a gathering dedicated to Moffett Vineyards' wines featured epicurean cameos by risotto studded with spicy sausage, garlic, chive, and leek paired with a selection of C&T Cellars sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.
Fifty Seven Degrees' stock is larger than a baleen smile, with hundreds of carefully selected wines, several different microbrews, and one double-secret Atmosphere vintage, containing 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% stellar residue. Take a seat at the newly installed circular bar and unfold a menu to reveal the wine bar offerings, which include a variety of tapas. Help your mouth heal the hunger of the past with The Nosh, a trio of aged cheddar cheese, crackers, and green olives ($12), or completely obliterate boring tastes with The Gnash, which takes The Nosh and bolts high-performance gherkins, hard salami, and a French baguette to its lightweight frame ($18).