A new generation of Italians has been making a splash in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood since opening Bencotto Italian Kitchen. The team, hailing from Northern Italy – specifically Milano and Modena, made it their mission to combine their Italian heritage and international restaurant experience, and present the fruits of their labors in a modern atmosphere; they have done just that. Bencotto refers to a meal done well or perfectly cooked. They chose this name in honor of their Italian culinary heritage, and they create dishes that live up to the name. Their authentic artisanal Italian cuisine is served in an urban-chic restaurant in the “Q” building in the heart of Little Italy.
Ambiance at Bencotto
The open-concept space is designed to welcome guests into an inviting Italian family kitchen with relaxed charm and hospitality. The interior is a trendy industrial style with sleek lines, concrete floors and walls, steel and glass accents, exposed ceilings with track lighting, oversized framed artwork, and floor to ceiling windows in the bi-level dining area. On the bottom level, quaint two-tops add an air of intimacy to the grand space. Sleek black lacquered high bar stools complement the long bar’s gleaming black countertop and massive wine selection.
Bread stations throughout the upper and lower dining areas reinforce the friendly Italian kitchen concept. An open stairway leads to second floor where several low top light wood tables with steel-grey chairs are scattered about. White walls, large black and white paintings, a brown accent wall with a row mirrors reflects back the dining area. Simple, yet elegant floral and greenery arrangements complete the look; it’s modern, urban, and casual.
“Made from scratch” is the name of the game at Bencotto Italian Kitchen where everything right down to the pasta noodles is homemade. Named Best Italian Restaurant by San Diego Magazine every year since 2010, the restaurant has also received accolades from Thrillist, The San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego Home & Garden, Riviera, 944, and other notable publications. Bencotto’s menu concept is “designed to share,” so diners can choose from an array of creative dishes, “plates to share”, and “pasta your way,” that recreate the relaxed experience of eating in an Italian kitchen. Create an aperitivo experience, or a full course meal.
Pasta is Bencotto Italian Kitchen’s signature dish, and as such, diners can personalize their pasta dishes by choosing either the smooth pasta fatta a mano – daily handmade pasta, or the pasta artiginale, which is artisanal pasta with an al dente texture. Guests then choose from eight different made-from-scratch sauces to complete their “pasta your way” selections. Try the tagliatelle – hand-cut fettuccine, and add the creamy salmon sauce and shrimp.
There is so much goodness at Bencotto Italian Kitchen that it is hard to choose. Cheese plates, prosciutto di parma, bocconi – plates of risotto balls, eggplant, or calimari to share, salads, oven-baked lasagna, and assorted meat and seafood dishes. One stand-out special that guests often rave about is the squid ink pasta with shrimp. There is a full wine list for pairing, and specialty cocktails like the traditional amaretto sour. A complete dessert menu featuring classics for the sweet tooth like tiramisu, chocolate mousse, vanilla pannacotta with blackberry puree round out your experience. After dinner cheeses and dessert wines are also available.
Dining tip: Choose a table on the lower level or outdoor seating for a more intimate experience. The restaurant’s acoustics make quiet dinner conversation in the loft difficult.
Bencotto: The Details
Bencotto Italian Kitchen serves guests seven days a week; they are open for dinner on Mondays, and lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. Families are welcome and there is something on the menu for everyone, but the trendy restaurant doesn’t cater to children and the vibe is more suited to adults. The restaurant is ADA accessible. There is Wi-Fi, they provide both take-out and catering, they offer award-winning happy hours, and diners who leave feedback are entered in a weekly drawing for $100 dinner or brunch vouchers.
Evenings, there is valet parking for Bencotto at the corner of Fir and India streets for a reasonable fee. There is also free parking at ACE lots on Kettner Boulevard, Columbia, Grape, Albatross, and Hawthorne streets after 6 p.m. with reservation validation, if you don’t mind a short stroll on a pleasant San Diego evening. Bencotto has opened an upscale “street-chic” restaurant based on the street food of Milan, Italy. Monello (little brother, in Italian) restaurant is located next door to older brother Bencotto in the Q building.
Bencotto’s Little Italy Neighborhood
One of the most active Downtown San Diego neighborhoods, Little Italy is filled with Italian retail shops, restaurants, art galleries, home design stores, and residential units. Take advantage of your time at Bencotto Italian Kitchen by preceding or following your meal with an exploration of this vibrant neighborhood. You’ll definitely want to take a stroll through Piazza Basilone, a stunning plaza featuring a gorgeous fountain and generous seating. It’s a tranquil setting for people watching or taking a post-dinner rest.
No matter when you visit Little Italy, there will probably be a festival, art show, or Italian celebration of some sort. The neighborhood is known for playing a meaningful part in San Diego’s cultural scene. You’ll enjoy Little Italy’s blend of modern urban edge and Old World Charm year-round. Its proximity to the San Diego Harbor makes it even more special. Walk the few blocks from Bencotto Italian Kitchen to Harbor Walk and visit the Maritime Museum, Hornblower Cruises, USS Midway, or simply take in a scenic San Diego sunset.