Ristorante Arrivederci / Bianco Rosso3845/3841 Fourth Ave., Hillcrest619-299-6282
It's no secret that beer is my current beverage of choice, but before there was beer, there was whiskey, and before whiskey, wine. Discovering that there's a beer that goes with virtually every kind of food has me reaching for a bottle opener more often than a cork-screw. And with the high alcohol content of many California wines—which creates a bite that overpowers food flavors—I consider wine almost like a cocktail, better consumed at a bar than a dinner table. But, with a long-saved-for and very-much-needed trip to Tuscany on the calendar for later this year, I figure that I'd better start getting used to wine again so that I don't show up in Italy asking, Where's the beer?
Italy is where my passion for food was born—or maybe fanned the already-smoldering embers. I can still recall almost everything I ate there 20 years ago, but it wasn't until recently, while going through old boxes, that I discovered that I'd documented it all, too. I filled up my first travel journal not with recaps of sight-seeing adventures but with a rundown of every meal and my impressions, which at 10 years old were pretty much limited to “yummy” or “not yummy.”
Planning the upcoming wine-soaked tour got me craving Italian food. On a recent evening, our group ended up at Hillcrest landmark Ristorante Arrivederci—not necessarily a personal favorite but undoubtedly hugely popular, with lines that spill onto the sidewalk every weekend. The same owner also operates Pizzeria Arrivederci down the street and Bianco Rosso, a wine bar that opened next door earlier this year. If there's a wait for a table at either restaurant, put your name down and kick things off with a glass of vino and a snack at the bar.
Charmingly cozy, Bianco Rosso is great for drinks with friends or a quiet date, with a less frenetic atmosphere than the restaurant and a better wine selection. The kitchen is separate, too, serving a short but wine-friendly list of small plates. We tried a good mixed bruschetta, a wooden board bearing large slices of crusty bread topped with fresh pesto, tomato, fresh mozzarella and smoked mozzarella with mushrooms. A friend and I had glasses of a bold and fruity Super Tuscan, whose blend of grapes can vary; another friend had Sangiovese, with a nice acidity that goes well with food.
While one friend ran to the airport to pick up her boyfriend, the rest of us moved over to the restaurant for more wine and our next course. In Italy, a pasta course is usually a given at any dinner, arriving between the antipasti and the main entrée. It's always served in manageable portions, the perfect amount for a pasta fix. At Arrivederci, all plates, including pastas, are almost overwhelmingly large. One of my indelible dishes from Italy was salmon pasta, so I tried to recapture the experience with a plate of farfalle vodka al salmone, served in a tomato sauce with a spoonful of cream. My friends had other seafood specials—squid ink linguine tossed with scallops and shrimp and heaping plates of shellfish sautéed in a wine and tomato sauce. Our shared side of artichokes was perfect, stripped of their tough outer leaves and braised in white wine with lemon and garlic until tender—the dish reminded me of the flawless Italian artichokes I still dream about, deep-fried but not battered, cooked whole until their leaves fanned out like flower petals and the outside turned crisp. At 10, I couldn't believe that something so bizarre-looking could be so delicious, but I've since learned better.
When I return to Italy, I just hope the restaurants there will be as accommodating as Arrivederci was, patient with us even though, in our gusto, we ended up staying past closing, lost in conversation and drinking our wine down to the bottom of the bottle.Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.