Dolce Pane E Vino offers an old-world atmosphere

Tucked away in a small shopping center in Rancho Santa Fe, Dolce Pane E Vino has this pixie-like atmosphere to it, to the point that I am always looking for Alice in Wonderland to sit next to me in the bar, ordering up one of those fabulous wines that are racked up throughout the wine bar and restaurant area.

Executive Chef John Weimann, left, and General Manager Steve Flowers of Dolce Pane E Vino, share a glass in their wine bar and small-bites restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe. Photo by Frank Mangio

The room is at once cozy, beautiful and fascinating, with the charm of old-world Italy. Dolce Pane E Vino means sweet bread and wine in Italian and was created by Dr. Anthony Smith almost two years ago, but really hit its stride when Steve Flowers came in as general manager, with his passion for world-class wine excellence. Details later, but I want to get into more of the “wow” architectural touches that blew me away.

A quick smile and a dose of merriment comes to all who snuggle into the family-style tables that are crafted for sharing, and the lighting with Italian glass that drops down from the ceiling like so many fireflies.
OK, let’s get to what most customers come in for — spectacular cuisine and that specially selected, handcrafted wine that will keep you smiling.

Executive Chef John Weimann on selected menu creations: “My salad is a seared Hamachi fresh fish with arugula, orange and ginger vinaigrette mixed. On top, a sliced avocado with mixed citrus and fennel. Also fried shallot with Uzu Juice and house-made lemon oil.” Perfect.

Flowers on the entrée: “It’s a Wild King Salmon served on a cedar plank, wood fired in the open oven, garnished with sea salt and charred asparagus, drizzled with lemon and saba.” He went on about the wine selected. “A white Barola Bianca from Piedmont Italy, vintage 2009. It has crispy fruit that comes through the Italian-style wine minerality.”

Two more reasons to get to know Dolce Pane E Vino. One is the imported artisan cheeses “to go” case,

Wood-fired entrees like this Wild King Salmon capture the food wonderland that is Dolce Pane E Vino in Rancho Sante Fe. Photo by Frank Mangio

affectionately known as the “Formaggeria.”

The second is the exclusive membership Reserve 100. This wine program gives access to top-tier wines at great values from the top winemakers in the world.

Every other month members will receive two bottles each of three ultra-fine wines with tasting notes, reviews and food-pairing ideas. A typical recent trio of wines included: 2005 Col Solare Blend, 94 points; 2007 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Napa, 95 points; and the 2007 Quintessa Rutherford Red Meritage, 95 points.

Make it into this wonderland of mirth and merriment by accessing dolcepaneevino.com or calling (858) 832-1518.

Wine Bytes

— San Diego County’s Restaurant Week is Jan. 15 through Jan. 20 with more than 180 restaurants offering a three-course prix-fixe dinner menu ranging from $20 to $40 each. In my neighborhood, Encinitas, check out Bentley’s, Chart House, Ciccioti’s, Firefly, Firenze and Via Italia.

— Il Forniao in Del Mar starts its 2012 Festa Regionale with the cuisine of Lombardia Italy, now through Jan. 15. Featured wine is a red, Castello di Luzzano with Malvasia grapes. Call (858) 755-8876 for details.

— PAON in Carlsbad has a Napa/Sonoma Tasting in its wine bar Jan. 12 to Jan. 18. Six pours for $14. Call (760) 729-7377 for times.

— Exploring Italy is the wine tasting event theme for Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 13. Cost is $20. Details at (760) 479-2500.

— Wine Styles in Encinitas has a jazz trio performing with a Super 6 Tasting from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 14. Cost is $12 per person. Call (760) 633-0057 for details.

— Cabernet Franc from Around the World is planned for 2 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at Bacchus Wine Market in the Gaslamp San Diego. Cost is $20. Get the names at (619) 236-0005.

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