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REVIEW: Bencotto Italian Kitchen

Cioppino, seafood soup with cod, salmon, calamari, shrimp in light spicy sauce.
Cioppino, seafood soup with cod, salmon, calamari, shrimp in light spicy sauce.
Courtesy Photo

We love Italian food. This point must be completely understood before any further communiqué can be appreciated. Just to be clear, we love Italian food. Are we clear?

Now that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate other styles of culinary treats, because we do love us some good eats, but there is just something intoxicating about pasta, sauces, breads, meatballs that make us go all gushy inside. We blame our parents. There are a surprising number of great Italian restaurants in San Diego. Heck, we have our own Little Italy, after all. When a good friend suggested we try Bencotto Italian Kitchen, saying it was simply brilliant Italian fare, how could we resist?

Turns out the owners, Guido and Valentina (now that’s Italian!), are from Milano and have dabbled in San Diego before, owning a restaurant in PB. They sold that enterprise, went off to hone their skills in fabulous Milano, and came back with a fury to grace us with Bencotto. Opened just over a year ago, the crafty owners have created a unique experience that one can’t help but enjoy.

The venue is much larger than it looks from the street. Be warned, stopping to look at the menu will bring forth the hostess to entice you inside. Don’t worry this is not a “salesy” intrusion but instead, almost like friends greeting you at the door. Be sure to go inside. The interior of Bencotto is a delectable blend of modern embracing heritage. The modern aspect is the slick contemporary design with its warehouse style ceilings with piping and exposed building design intact. Simple black chairs and tables adorn the room. The wall to the street is floor-to-ceiling glass, which opens up the space nicely. And the other wall is a, well, wall of wine behind the open bar. An upstairs can hold private functions with its own bar available. There is also an outside patio allowing you to enjoy the San Diego weather and unique Little Italy vibe. Take your pick.

The heritage part comes with the service and, more importantly, the food. We were informed that the creator and executer of the dishes is not a “chef” but a “cook.” This simple difference sets the pace for Bencotto. The “cook” has honed his skills in classic Italian dishes with the bold, rich flavors one thinks of with Italian cooking. These dishes have been coaxed to remain true to their heritage while setting a new standard of rich flavors and plating. Even the name says it, Bencotto Italian “Kitchen.” No need here for fanciful overlays to impress, just Italian fare made to love.

Needless to say, with this build-up, diets were thrown out the window and marathon eating was in order. To start things off, sample their “Le Rosse” prosciutto varieties ($5/$14); literally sliced right before your eyes for your palate's delight. Three varieties are offered from sweet to savory, sliced so thinly they literally melt in your mouth with a burst of goodness. This was accompanied with the Gnocco Fritto (lightly fried puffed pasta dough) or delicate puffs of heaven that added a wonderful balance to the sliced meats. We were off and running.

The Bocconi (or plates to share) brought forth a showstopper: the Riso Fritto (fried saffron risotto balls with a ragu dip - $9). Served in quaint cone-shaped paper, these little guys packed a wallop of flavor and dipped into the ragu not only heightened the simple, robust taste, but allowed you to get a glimmer of what was to come (meaning the ragu, which would shortly find its way onto pasta). Soup lovers will enjoy the Pasta e Fagioli alla Toscana (Tuscan bean soup and home made pasta - $5/7) with the deep, thick almost stew-like quality. Delicioso!

The entrees treated us to the best of times with comforting Italian food. Cioppino Bencotto (seafood soup with cod, salmon, calamari, shrimp in light spicy sauce with garlic bread croutons - $19) was unbelievably rich and filled with huge chunks of seafood. The broth created the perfect bread-dipping canvas, as all good broths should. Textures abound. Seasonings filled the senses and smiles crossed both our faces. If you are going for the pasta (and we highly recommend you do) its Pasta a Mood Tuo here, meaning “pasta your way” ($12/14). Choose your type of sauce and then choose your type of pasta. Eight offerings of sauces are available from meats to salmon and spicy to rustic. We went for the original and Bolognese adorned our pappardelle pasta (egg, semolina flour, large hand-cut fettuccine). The dish was picture perfect, swimming in rich goodness. The ragu was a comforting deep blend of flavors. There are seven other pasta choices as well, ranging from gnocchi to ravioli to tube macaroni.

We had come this far, so why not have some dessert? A beautiful, fluffy, decadently rich Tiramisu (mascarpone cheese and ladyfinger parfait - $7) had us cooing, while the Sbrisol con Cioccolato Fuso (crispy & buttery biscotto-cake, almond and warm melted chocolate - $7) should almost be illegal. The biscotto was clearly made with tender care. Just crunchy enough, yet also delicate. Dipped into the melted chocolate created a “fireside” warmth of satisfaction that will not be soon forgotten.

Bencotto delivered on all counts. Friendly, relaxing ambiance. Spot-on service: not just our server but the entire staff seemed to be waiting on our every whim. Piping hot food fortified with home made quality as seemingly every dish was made just for you. In a world of so many restaurants dazzling you with smoke and mirrors, the opportunity to sit back and enjoy a well orchestrated, yet down-at-home style of a meal would please any well trained chef or “cook” in this matter. Enjoy!

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-450-4786
  • Name: Bencotto Italian Kitchen
  • Address: 750 W. Fir Street