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Pino Bottalico, the owner of Venetos Cucina Italiana in Oceanside, pours a glass of Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva for columnist Frank Mangio. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Venetos is small, intimate and oh-so-delicious

With the virus crisis abating and diners starting to reappear, still subject to a few remaining rules, speculation persists on what dining will be like when the “all-clear” comes.

For my take on who the winners will be, you should pay a visit to Venetos Cucina Italiana on the Coast Highway in Oceanside.

Rico and I chose a midweek evening to visit with the owner, taste a few selections from the menu, then enjoy a couple of wine pairings from a largely Mediterranean list.

We were met at the front door by owner and manager Pino Bottalico, a quick-witted, sprightly, relaxed restaurateur for more than 30 years. He has smoothly made transitions from several successful Italian restaurants in North County. In the ’90s, I was marketing the Encinitas Lumberyard shopping center, and Bottalico was serving diners at his Pino’s Italian restaurant. If I needed a few dinner prizes, he was always ready to help.

Frank’s menu choice was this luscious Cheese Ravioli, plump shells soaked with meat sauce and covered with Parmesan cheese. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Venetos may be the most intimate Italian restaurant that Pino has operated, with about 20 tables and another eight out front. The well-stocked bar has more seating. Pino’s No. 1 priority is to meet and greet each and every customer who enters the festive dining room. He also made sure the food and drinks were on time and freshly made, with help from bartender Courtney.

We started with garlic knots and fresh baked bread enhancing a Caesar salad. We also split a beautiful margherita pizza, adding delicious prosciutto to the 00 Italian flour base. For the main course, Rico dined on Vitello alla Parmigiana (two breaded veal patties topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella, with fresh zucchini, broccoli and carrots and a side of pasta). I had one look at the Ravioli entry, fell in love and ordered it. It was made with ricotta-filled shells with lots of luscious meat sauce covered with Parmesan cheese.

Rico and I smartly saved some room for the “Dolce” extraordinaire … a homemade tiramisu! This was the exquisite capper to this feast, with layers of ladyfinger cookies and sweet, creamy, coffee-inspired whipped cream, served with a drizzle of syrup. Chef Domingo Romero presides over the kitchen crew, working hard to get meals that are hot and flavorful out to the tables.

When you get to the vino menu, you’ll choose one of many Italian wines Venetos offers. Pino recommended the 2016 Vigneti Reale Salice Salentino Riserva from Pulgia in the south of Italy.

I insisted on a sentimental choice, one that I discovered in Tuscany on my first lengthy stay at Italian wineries. It was the Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva 2017 ($40) from the village of Beradenga, not far from Siena, with succulent cherry, raspberry blends and the mineral effects of tobacco, leather, and smoke of the Chianti District of Tuscany.

Venetos’ lunch hours are Wednesday through Sunday at 11 a.m. Dinner is nightly, Monday-Sunday, 3 to 9 p.m. For reservations and takeout, call 760-722-1228. Visit VenetosCucinaItaliana.com.

Wine Bytes

• Vigiluccci’s Trattoria in Leucadia is now serving lunch on Saturday and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. Details at 760-634-2365.

• Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in San Diego, and all other locations, is hiring. Team members enjoy a fun, family-oriented environment, food and other discounts and competitive pay. Secure a job and receive a signing bonus. For details, call 619-272-5060.

• The Pinnacle Restaurant at Falkner Winery in Temecula is again offering its popular annual Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch, Sunday, May 9, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring many Mediterranean-style foods. A complimentary glass of Champagne will be a part of the elegant meal along with other beverage options, including discounted Falkner wine by the glass. Live entertainment will provide the atmosphere. For reservations, call 951-676-8231, ext. 4., or visit falknerwinery.com.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected].

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