Finances being as they are, I haven't been out in a while. That means, I was I-T-C-H-I-N-G to!
So when my friend Nicole suggested a night out for a glass of wine, I said yes without much hesitation.
Nicole suggested Sogno DiVino in the Little Italy area of San Diego immediately north of Downtown. I got there a little early so I wandered around as the area has changed so much since the last time I'd been there.
I stood out in front of Sogno, camera in hand eavesdropping on snippets of conversations, snapping photos of couples walking by, signage, street details.
First thing that caught my ear, the older gentleman who I assumed was Sogno's owner/host was chatting with first time customers sitting out in the bar's outdoor patio. I loved hearing the heavily accented English and when I closed my eyes, I was transported to Italy. The customers were also European and where here on vacation. One was Israeli, the other French and the three of them spoke in English then switched to Italian and French without missing a beat. Yes, this was going to be a nice evening.
When Nicole arrived, the lovely Mr. Italian Host seated us near the kitchen right by the meat case. How fortuitous since the interior was dimly lit with candles and twinkling lights. I had planned on photographing our evening as incognito as possible so that meant high ISO, lens nearly wide open and no flash. The meat case was heavily lit from within and the light spilled over onto our table for two creating a nice side light that saved the evening's sneak attack photos.
We both decided white wine sounded good so when Ms. Waitress came to take our order, we let her know that's what we wanted. She started to suggest a chardonnay. However, Nicole and I had already discussed our mutual "eh" towards chardonnays. We both like Pinot Grigio, we tell Ms. Waitress who proceeded to suggest three wines, one being Italian. "Italian?" Naturally, that had to be our pick. So we settled on a 1/2 carafe of the LaVis Pinot Grigio from Trentino at $16. At the menu's $6 a glass listing for this wine, the carafe was definitely a better buy since it was enough for each of us to enjoy two glasses. It most definitely lived up to it's description too: Creamy, light, soft and refreshingly clean. And, well, truth be told, it was so darn yummy, that we ordered a second carafe. Oui! We should've gotten a bottle and saved ourselves $8.
Time for appetizers
While we were waiting for our wine, the two ladies seated right next to us were served their appetizer. The senses teasing smell of pesto made it's way into the very soul of my being and I leaned over and asked what it was they had ordered. It was the Basil Pesto Goat Cheese and Roasted Garlic plate. Nicole and I were on the same page. That's what we wanted.
The pesto was fresh, bright green, with just the right amount of cheese and garlic and a very appealing texture – not too thick and not too runny from too much olive oil. The plate had several cloves of roasted garlic. Nicole and I were glad we both loved garlic since we were not at all afraid to dive into their sweet goodness. We both were also happy we were two gals out for the evening enjoying this lovely dish for as Nicole said, "This isn't the best choice if you're on a date." Considering, too, that as we ate and smiled, we also laughed at the bits of basil stuck between our teeth. She was right on target with that assessment. Hah!
We also got a decent assortment of warm, slightly toasted breads: from sourdough, to wheat, to french with seeds and white with little chunks of cheese.
The surprise on the plate was a dark lump on either side of the plate. Nicole being more adventurous, tried it first. She said it was sweet but couldn't quite place it. I tried it then too and yes, it was a nice addition, the sweetness offsetting the pesto and garlic flavors well. Caramelized onion? Fig? Uh? Ms. Waitress, what is this sweet lump? Caramelized red onion. Who knew onions could taste this mild and luscious?
The goat cheese ran out quickly as there was definitely a higher ratio of pesto to goat cheese and if you're trying to load up a well-balance slice of bread, well, yes, the cheese will run out on you. No matter. The pesto was just as tasty without the added goat cheese.
The atmosphere was cozy, dark, wine cellar-like. The service was friendly and attentive. I thought as we sat there talking and noshing that it reminded me of Trattoria I Trulli, my favorite Italian restaurant EVER that is located in Encinitas (about 40 min north of downtown San Diego). Nicole mentioned that it was one of her favorites as well when we realized that most of the servers were, like the host, speaking with Italian accents, just like the Trattoria. And just like the Trattoria, we were satisfied and happy, almost giddy, as we walked out after our leisurely 2 hour noshing and chatting fest.
And as I was doing some research for this post, I found out why Trattoria I Trulli came to mind for both us: Sogno DiVino is owned by the same family.
Until next time...
For black and white versions of these photos, click here .