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.
Sip wine, snack on paninis, and devour small plates in the heart of San Diego’s Italian district. With today’s Groupon, $25 gets you $50 worth of food and drink at Enoteca Style, an upscale café and lounge brought to you by the folks behind East Village spot Salad Style.
At Wine Steals, a casual wine bar and market the bar?s barrels and shelves are filled with more than 40 international wines. The executive chef, a former US Navy galley cook, arranges artisanal meat and cheese boards and crafts wine-themed international flavor combinations that either spread onto pizzas or curl up into sandwiches. For example, the pinot noir combo mixes Italian flavors of prosciutto, asiago, mozzarella, and white truffle oil.
Servers suggest ideal pairings to novice and experienced oenophiles as they pass drinks and plates across a 14-seat stone bar topped with European-style zinc. Above the bar, a chalkboard framed by wine barrels lists 40 vintages available by the half glass, glass, or bottle. Throughout the space, plush couches and chairs gather around wine barrels with wooden tabletops for more intimate gatherings or heated staring-contest championships. Wine Steals? casual approach to wine and eclectic food has earned it the title of Best Wine Bar in the San Diego Union-Tribune's 2012 readers' poll.