San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood is known for a delicious abundance of warm-hearted Italian restaurants. When we’re craving a hearty meal and old-world Italian charm, we know to follow our nose straight to India Street.
However, my latest trip to Little Italy’s newest restaurant, Bencotto Italian Kitchen, made me realize there’s a few flavor cooking on India Street. Wave goodbye to enormous portions and black and white checkered table cloths. This ultra-modern restaurant is introducing local foodies to the finer side of authentic Italian dining while maintaining a casual vibe and low price point.
“Bencotto” means and refers to a meal done well, or perfectly cooked. Bencotto’s industrial space in the new “Q” building is definitely not well done; in fact, this raw restaurant is designed just right. Your first look inside Bencotto communicates floor to ceiling windows, urban-chic cement walls, exposed pipes, simple contemporary art work, and understated tables sans table cloths. The first floor offers guests petite tables perfect for dinner dates, tall bar seating at the sleek central bar, and most importantly, amazing views of the sparkling Little Italy community through wide window walls. Head upstairs for a top-shelf serving of the Bencotto dining experience. The spacious second floor features four-top tables as well as removed booth seating in the back for private epicurean encounters. Mirror reflections, refined track lighting, and statement-making modern art sets the tone for your meal up here.
Bencotto serves hand -made “home style” dishes in an environment that reflects who they are: a young generation of Italians who celebrate their culinary heritage, presenting it in a modern, relaxed, and inviting kitchen-style restaurant. Bencotto strives to be the ultimate Italian eating experience, drawing inspiration from the real kitchens where Italians grow up, cook, and eat.
The straight-forward menu is categorized into salads and soups, small plates to share, entrees, and the signature Pasta A Modo Tuo, or Pasta Your Way. Notable starters recommended by staff include the Gnocchi Alla Romana – broiled semolina cakes, gorgonzola cheese, mushroom, spicy sausage sauce; Erbazzone E Mozzarella – quiche filled with spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese, served with buffalo mozzarella. For your entrée, check out the Tagliata Alla Senape Con Rucola & Pomodorini – sliced grilled beef steak, marinated in mustard, cooked rare, served with arugula and cherry tomatoes; Crespella Ai Porri – baked crepes stuffed with leeks and parmesan cheese; Lasagna Alla Bolognese – with meat and tomato sauce.
Customize your own entrée with the Pasta A Modo Tuo portion of the menu. Your sauce choices include Bencotto – pink spicy pancetta sauce; Salsiccia – sausage in spicy tomato; and Salsa Alle Noci – walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, among many. Your pasta choices include Ravioli Di Magro – egg, “00” semolina flour pasta, filled with ricotta, spinach, parmesan cheese; and Gnocchi – potato dumplings, flour, stuffed with ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, pecorino cheese, black pepper, just to name a few.
For your Sweet Tooth, the dessert menu offers a decadent house-made Tiramisu with mascarpone cheese and ladyfinger parfait, among many. The Bencotto team believes that a restaurant’s wine list should be dynamic and ever-changing, and the wait staff is trained to complement your meal with the best wine currently on the menu.
Behind the Scenes: Little Italy’s new kitchen is run by General Manager and Co-Owner Guido Nistri and Public Relations Guru Valentina Di Pietro. Though this couple has been involved with an array of restaurants both across America and Italy, the most relevant to our local dining community is Caffé Bella Italia in Pacific Beach. Starting in 1998, Guido provided diners with authentic Italian food in an elegant atmosphere until 2004, when he moved back to Italy to take on new projects. Following Bella Italia, Valentina was involved in the high fashion industry all over the world, developing her niche in the public relations industry. The incredibly experienced couple is now making a new home in Little Italy with Bencotto Italian Kitchen, alongside Executive Chef and Co-Founder Fabrizio Cavallini and Sous Chef Roberto L. Franzoni.
At the core of Bencotto Italian Kitchen is a belief that high-quality food can be simple and supremely delicious. Visit this young generation of inspirational Italians who celebrate their culinary heritage in a modern, relaxed, and inviting kitchen-restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy.
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