BiCE Ristorante recently added lunch hours to their restaurant about 2 months ago. This establishment has been providing fine Italian dining in the gaslamp for the last eight years and invokes the combined talents of general manager and partner Mario Cassineri and Executive Chef Francesca Penoncelli. Both hail from Italy and bring with them the whimsical flavors and inspirations from their upbringing. We were invited to try out their new lunch menu and stopped in on a Friday.
Upon entry into BiCE (pronounced B-chay), you'll find a contemporary and elegant open bar and seating. The group sales manager Fabrizio introduced himself to us and answered our many curiosities. We also took a peek at the happy hour menu, available between 5-7pm. With the tempting food options and sensible prices, it was no surprise to hear that their happy hour was very popular!
Soon we were seated in the main dining area by the lead server Alfio, a friendly gentleman who was attentive and full of suggestions. We were unsure what to eat so Alfio put in a order for some of the more popular items on their lunch menu.
We were delighted when a complimentary basket of two breads came out, a foccacia and a ciabatta bread, both made in house like the majority of their items. The foccacia was crusted with parmesan while the ciabatta was hearty and infused with grains. What impressed us even more was the accompanying spread. The mound was a unique ricotta and marscapone blend that lent a rich butteriness when paired with the breads. The truffle oil and balsamic vinegar beneath provided the more familiar dipping options.
While here, we noticed this machine near the bar area and learned that it was used to slice the prosciutto they imported from Italy!
We reaped the benefits as the next appetizer came out! Even Dennis, who generally isn't a fan of prosciutto, enjoyed this dish, favoring the milder flavor. Then there was heavenly burrata, of which I ate the majority! For those unfamiliar, this is much softer and pillowy than regular mozzarella cheese and amazing! The fresh cracked black pepper was proportioned just right over both the burrata and the prosciutto. Nearby the micro greens was a brush of concentrated balsamic sauce, to play against the sweet cherry tomatoes. The breadsticks were thin, and oddly it reminds me of handisnacks! These were the subtle crunch to the salty of the meat.
Our next appetizers were "frichoi", the Foie Gras Potato Croquette. There was a barley crust surrounding the potato and foie gras filling. Two sauces bedded the potato croquettes, the orange toned one being a super light tomato sabayon, and the other a fantastic leeks and gorgonzola sauce.
I was particularly excited about this because we have never tried foia gras before. Here, it lent a softly melting richness and mild liver taste against the hash brown textured potato bits. My favorite sauce was the leek and gorgonzola one.
A bowl of spaghetti squash cassarole in a "pizzaiola" style was placed in front of us next. The stringy insides of the squash make for a great carb substitution and was combined with a tomato-y base. The criss cross of cheese on top helped to mellow out the stronger flavors of the sauce.
Alfio paired the appetizers with a Stemmari pinor noir. This red wine is imported from Sicily and was flavorful and full bodied.
Finally our entrees arrived! The first was the Pan-Seared Salmon, a perfect meal size with beautiful crispy skin from being seared. The interior was silky, easily flaked, and moist with a slightly rosier internal pink.
The delicious salmon reigned over a countryside of barley, quinoa and vegetables. For Dennis, the vegetables and barley was a bit complex and he would have preferred it separated. I thought it was a fun wild mix because of its extra zest and was excited to see another use of quinoa. There were also four balls of the goat cheese so you get a punch of it in your bites.
The other entree was the house-made ravioli, which is never easy to make! The pasta shell enclosed such savory shredded braised beef, blanketed in a creamy mushroom sauce and swarmed by meaty mushroom bites, a mix of 5 wild mushrooms. The only thing we wanted different were the portions... you can never get enough good ravioli anywhere!
For desserts, we had two choices, chocolate mousse and tiramisu. I am never one to turn down Tiramisu so that's what we ordered. After taking a bite, we certainly wished we didn't have to share! The outer portion was the light creaminess you'd expect while the inside had a smaller cake part than usual, still delicious with the reduced strawberry drizzle.
After our meal, we got to check out their wine cellar. The majority of wines available here are imported from Italy but there is also a selection of California wines to pick from as well.
There's also a cheese bar at BiCE, although this day they were closed because of an afternoon reservation (the whole restaurant was booked). Otherwise, there's approximately 30 cheeses on the menu and 15 circulating when the bar is open. They even have their own cheese monger to assist guests in selections! We're really interested in coming back to see the selection!
All in all, the lunch selections at BiCE Ristorante were priced within reason for a fine dining experience and turned out quite delicious too. I think what also impressed me about this place is how they try to keep everything as Italian as possible, imported cheeses, wines, meats and even the core staff too (everyone mentioned in the post)! It keeps that upscale experience without the pretentiousness. This would be great for business clients as well as a nicer sit-down lunch during the week. You can find their lunch menu on their website. If you join their mailing list, you will receive a $25 voucher upon signing up!
Disclaimer: we were hosted for the meal but the opinions are strictly our own.
425 Island Ave
San Diego CA 92101