>> Thursday, July 21, 2011
Date of Dining: 4/17/2011Price: ~$35 for entree and appetizer
Location: 750 W Fir St, San Diego, CA 92101
The Quick Bit:
+ fresh handmade pasta
+ reasonable prices
+ friendly service
Δ The acoustic ambiance of the space could be toned down
Δ Some dishes could have more variation in sauces
Disclaimer: I went to Bencotto with people that knew the owner and his wife, but it was not communicated to the kitchen that I was a blogger.
Looking at the menu of Bencotto, one is bound to be worried that the food that comes out of the kitchen might just be food from The Olive Garden; the chief worry being the "build your own pasta" portion that dominates the entrees. However, if one were to be put off by the "build your own pasta" menu, they would potentially miss a truly wonderful opportunity to experience authentic Italian food in the heart of the Little Italy district of San Diego.
Bencotto's concept is like Occam's Razor; the food should just be totally simple, taste authentic, and leave the diner happy. The focus and selling point of Bencotto are two things: for the appetizers there is a selection of salumis and prosciuttos delivered from red meat slicers at the bar, and for the entree their pastas are all handmade fresh to order.
Heading the kitchen of Bencotto is Executive Chef Fabrizio Cavallini. Chef Cavallini grew up in Emilia Romagna and hails from a family of chefs. He graduated from Hospitality Institute in Modena and worked as the Head Chef of Europa 93,Osteria Artidoro, and Beccofino in Milan. At Osteria Artidoro, Chef Cavallini met Guido Nistri, General Manager and Owner of Bencotto. Along with his wife Valentina, Nistri manages both the front of house and kitchen of Bencotto. He can often be seen making the rounds in the restaurant making sure everyone is having a good time.
|Salumi with Gnocco Fritto|
|Calimari in Umido|
On the presentation, I was put off by the lone floating piece of bread in the bowl. Alone, it was not enough to supplement the entire appetizer, and I don't think it improved the plating. Despite the looks, the calamari were only slightly overcooked, but were definitely fresh. The broth had a nice element of spice that elevated the dish.
Once again, I was put off by the additional piece of bread garnish added to the appetizer, but that was quickly forgotten as I enjoyed the chewiness of the tripe contrasted with the sharpness of the cheese and the delicate spice in the sauce. This sauce was much thicker than the calamari sauce, so it was much easier to sop up with the bread.
|Tagliatelle al Nero di Seppia|
If there was a knock on this dish it's that there were essentially two types of shrimp in the dish. First there are the larger prawns that are readily seen in the photo, and then there were some smaller shrimp that were mixed in with the pasta. While I was extremely happy for the generous portion of shrimp, it did seem somewhat confusing that there were two different types of shrimp (so different flavors) in the dish, and that the smaller ones were slightly overcooked as a result (since they were smaller). However, this was only a minor blip and I otherwise enjoyed the dish immensely.
This wasn't a particularly strong dish, but it wasn't extremely weak either. In the end, we were too full for dessert so we called for mercy.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with Bencotto. I was hoping to have gone back for the "pasta your way" before posting this review (hence the delay), but I never made it back. However, I was told by many others that the pasta is hand made, cooked fresh to order, and was as high in quality as the squid ink pasta I enjoyed.
The food at Bencotto was fresh, authentic, and very tasty. The hand-made pastas and balances sauces really set it apart from some other Italian restaurants in San Diego. On the strength of my experience at Bencotto, I award it the bit award.