Walking into BiCE in San Diego is like being transported to a restaurant in Milano. Slick glass and stainless steel slash through the decor.  Calming whites are sedate next to shiny black surfaces and pops of brilliant red.  A huge, wall-dominating glass wine cellar.  What’s that you hear?  Amid the classy clink of glasses and above the bustle of dinner service?  That’s right- the musical tones of Italian accents.  Real Italians, as if they were imported specifically to heighten the  authenticity of this haven for Italophiles everywhere.

BiCE is more than a restaurant.  It is an Island of Italy, in the middle of downtown San Diego.

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to discover this beautiful restaurant.  The kitchen is guided by chefs Mario Cassineri and Francesca Penoncelli.  These two make a fantastic team- creating magical dishes like cotton-candy-wrapped blue cheese, as well as classics such as a superb Vitello Tonnato.  In everything I tasted there was a superb love of food.  An honest emotion for the enjoyment of flavor and texture.  These two chefs are dynamic- respectful of Italian culinary tradition, while constantly elevating each bite to something even more delicious than the last.

The wine program as well, was impressive.  Italian-centric, full of well-cultivated indigenous gems, and organized by region; this wine list is another well-guided tour of Bella Italia.  The wine program is curated by Filippo Raitano, whose passion for  the wines and producers of Italy is self-evident.  We found a lovely bottle of Venica’s Ronca del Cero Sauvignon, 2011 on the list.  Of all the Sauvignon in the world, when a wine director selects Giampaolo Venica’s Collio Sauvignon to represent the entire category, I know I am in the right place.

This wine is one of my favorite expressions of Friuli.  It is structured, with beautiful tropical fruit aromas, tangled with streaks of feral minerality that can only come from a singular terroir.  When I visited Giampaolo Venica with some of my Las Vegas colleagues at Wirtz Beverages, I was surprised by the composition of the soil.  Giampaolo explained it is this “ponca” this strata of clay and marl, that give the vines a reason to dig deep for ancient nutrients.

It’s also why when you taste the Venica wines, as Carnevino’s Wine Director, Kirk Peterson commented at the winery that day, “it’s like tasting electricity.”

The Venica Sauvignon is a perfect match for cheeses, of which BiCE has a world-class selection, as well as fish and poultry.  We drank it straight through our meal at BiCE and found it’s beautiful round fruit, coupled with that stinging minerality, made the Ronco del Cero Sauvignon a perfect and flexible, pairing.

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