In need of a relaxing moment and a glass of wine or want to sample varietals in a chic, intimate, and sophisticated environment? Come relax and unwind at Toast Enoteca & Cucina in San Diego’s East Village. This combination restaurant and wine bar features around 400 different bottles of wine to sample and purchase. By the glass sales are available as well. Toast offers an extensive and authentic Italian menu complete with antipasti, insalante, primi, pizze, secondi, and Panini courses. This downtown landmark is yet another culinary creation by Martin Gonzalez, the owner and executive chef of Acqua Al 2, a Gaslamp district restaurant known for its hearty, rustic, and authentic Italian cuisine. Come in, raise your glasses, and say cheers to Toast Enoteca & Cucina as they take the concept of a wine bar to new heights.Read More ...
Toast Enoteca & Cucina is the newest venture of popular San Diego Chef Martin Gonzalez, who dedicated his culinary career to traditional Italian cuisine and service after a life-altering trip to Italy inspired him to attend the esteemed Instituto Culinario Apicius and study under owner Chef Stefano Innocenti of the prominent Italian Ristorante Acqua Al 2 in Florence. Chef Gonzalez opened the second location of Acqua Al 2 in San Diego’s bustling Gaslamp District in 2001, which continues to be one of San Diego’s most popular Italian Restaurants. A conceptual departure from Acqua Al 2, Toast Enoteca & Cucina is a wine bar that offers gourmet food in addition to a large selection of 400 wines bringing San Diegans a taste of Italian wine culture.
East Village is sprinkled with trendy restaurants aspiring to attract clientele from the downtown scene, but Toast Enoteca & Cucina rises above the competition with its demure interior and relaxed vibe—a novelty in Downtown’s fast-paced setting. I exit the 5 South on 10th Avenue, parking a block away from Toast Enoteca & Cucina, lucky to find a nearby parking spot. I walk to the restaurant with my guest, taking note of the expansive windows that grace the front of the building and large maroon sign with the emblem of the restaurant in white lettering above the entrance, while I cross the charming outdoor patio to enter the restaurant. The sidewalk patio is carefully arranged to create a feeling of openness and space, with two cantaloupe yellow umbrellas casting shade onto an assortment of white cloth-draped tables surrounded by red-painted metal chairs seating parties of two and four.
We receive a warm greeting from our waitress as she directs us to a table near the state-of-the art wine-dispensing Enomatic Machines at the center of the restaurant. These machines are an essential part of the wine bar concept allowing customers to taste a variety of the world’s finest wines in affordable, small 1 oz. servings by purchasing a “wine card” that enables you to directly sample wines in a freshly opened condition served at the optimum temperature. Thus customers have the opportunity to sample wines before purchasing the entire bottle.
Inside, the restaurant has a sophisticated and modern interior. On the right side of the restaurant there is a chic lounge area with black couches and small black tables ideal for socializing and sipping on the over 65 wines available by the glass. The walls are painted a rich olive hue and adorned with modern, abstract paintings; while the floors are covered with dark brown Mahogany wood, adding a sense of comfort and hominess that begs patrons to sit down and relax. To the left, a white stone-topped bar displays additional wines available for sampling and plenty of seating provided by jet black bar chairs. Across from the bar in the center of the restaurant is one of the two self-service Enomatic Machines with tables for two and four placed near the adjacent wall in an “L” shape. In this area, the tables are the same Mahogany finish as the floors, and are accented by red chairs on one side and mahogany banquette seating on the other. Located across from the first Enomatic Machine, the second Enomatic Machine acts a barrier between the lounge and seating area, offering an array of white wines displayed by the sweetest wines on the left to drier wines on the right.
We are given menus and welcomed by General Manager Carlos, who explains Chef Martinez’s inspiration for Toast Enoteca & Cucina. Chef Martinez wanted to create a casual place for friends to gather, offering tapas-style plates with slightly larger portions. The menu is a modern spin on traditional Italian cuisine—infusing customary dishes with modern techniques and flavors. The same menu is offered at both Lunch and Dinner, including a variety of Italian fare including Appetizers, Salads, Paninis, Pizza, Meat and Fish Dishes, Pasta, and Desserts. Additional menu items include the house specialty Insalata Di Polipo E Patate (Potato and Otopus Salad) or the Pollo Arrosto, Oven Roasted Chicken served on top of Sautéed Green Beans in Tomato and Garlic Sauce. Gluten free pizzas and pastas are also available. The menu also includes lunch specials available weekdays and happy hour specials available weekdays and all day Sundays.
I am pleasantly surprised to be given an iPad by the server that houses the wine list. Carlos explains how to use all of the features on the high-tech wine list. Customers are more than welcome to consult with the servers about wine choices, but customers can also look up wines available in the Enomatic Machines or behind the bar, by grape, vintage, region, and character via iPad.
We leave it up to Carlos to decide which dishes we should sample. As we wait for our first course, our server brings us a glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, “Scarpone,” a dry red wine with notes of fruitiness as it splashes across your tongue.
The first appetizer, Carciofi Al Forno, Oven Baked Artichokes with Pecorino Cheese, is placed on our table. The dark brown tinged artichoke cooked to crispy perfection is drizzled with a white garlic sauce on a bright white porcelain dish blanketed by a generous portion of Pecorino cheese. My mouth is filled with the deliciously gooey and garlicky duo of the garlic sauce and cheese, offset by the rich earthiness of the hearty, crispy artichoke. The dish provides a nice saltiness and pungent bite that pairs well with the wine and lingers on the taste buds.
The second appetizer served on a large, white porcelain plate is the Pane Olio E Aceto, a half-baguette with 2oz. of Premium Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar each served in small white porcelain bowls. Carlos points out that the balsamic vinegar from Modena is reduced in-house, making its special preparation the centerpiece of the dish. The baguette is house made, tasting warm and fresh as I rip off a piece of the pre-cut baguette. Upon dipping the bread into the olive oil and vinegar I notice the molasses-like texture of the vinegar. The warm bread and buttery olive oil set the stage for the thick, sweet, and pungent vinegar.
After we enjoy the appetizers, the Lasagna Al Broccoli E Salsiccia, Lasagna in a Broccoli Sausage and Parmesan Sauce, arrives in a medium-sized eggshell white porcelain soufflé bowl with a thick layer of cheese bubbling over the top— enticing to the eyes as well as the taste buds. The first bite is infused with a myriad of textures provided by the baked melted parmesan cheese, tender broccoli, juicy sausage, and thick noodles. The sausage adds a hint of salty richness and licorice undertones from the anise seeds sprinkled throughout the sausage. Cooked just right, the broccoli provides color and acts as a palate cleanser to the cheese and sausage.
Next up is the Rigatoni Alla Bolognese, large tube shaped pasta with rustic style Bolognese topped with shavings of parmesan cheese. Carlos points out that this Bolognese is different than the kind usually served in the United States where “Bolognese” bears little resemblance to its traditional roots of Bologna, Italy. Outside of Italy, the sauce is made with ground beef and includes a healthy portion of red tomato sauce, but Chef Gonzalez sticks with a more traditional approach using small bits of shredded beef and carrot, and only a small amount of tomato in the sauce. The sauce has a subtle flavor that enhances the flavor of the small bits of carrot and meat, while the thick, al dente pasta melts in your mouth. This dish is comforting to the core, providing soothing flavors and heartiness with its rustic ingredients and traditional preparation.
After sampling the delicious entrees and appetizers, my guest and I are more than ready to try out the self-service Enomatic Machines housing a delectable array of red and white wines available for 1oz. samples. I taste a variety of red and white wines, including the Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay, which has melon aromas brightened by tangy lemon zest and white pepper and the Palacios Remondo Tempranillo, which has notes of blackberry jam, fresh raspberry, and a hint of Mediterranean country herbs, coffee, and leather. The sampling is a fun interactive distraction that allows you to socialize with other patrons in addition to expanding your wine palate through sampling a large variety of wines.
We return to the table just in time for dessert to be served. Although usually ordered separately, we are served the Chocolate Lava Cake and Gelato Alla Panna Cotta in a white porcelain dish elegantly placed to create a striking image of brown and white. The Chocolate Lava Cake has velvety chocolate ganache nestled in the center that pours out of the cake upon dipping my spoon to take a bite. The rich dark chocolate flavor wafts over my tongue as the cake and ganache center create a delightful textural display of moist, spongy cake. Adding a note of creaminess to the dessert, the Gelato Alla Panna Cotta is also light, with the luxurious texture distinctive of gelato and hint of vanilla after each bite. To go with this truly delectable dessert, we are offered a sample of one of Toast’s premium dessert wines available for purchase by the bottle. We sip on the Banfi Rosa Regale Bracheto D’Acqui that is both fruity and delicate with hints of raspberry.
Toast Enoteca & Cucina is a modern haven for wine-lovers and foodies everywhere, striking the tricky balance between urban oasis and neighborhood hangout.
Toast Enoteca & Cucina is an ideal spot for a date or happy hour haunt. Although East Village is filled with great dining spots, off street parking can be hard to find. The closest public parking lots near the restaurant are Five Star Parking on 6th Avenue and J Street and Ace Parking located on Imperial Avenue and 11th Avenue.
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Had an amazing Anniversary dinner with my beautiful wife. The entire meal was fantastic!!! This is a must visit location in downtown San Diego.
After some quick research I was very happy with my decision to take my lady to Toast E & C. On a special engagement weekend I was looking for high end italian food, not over priced, and with a good wine selection. All of those were fullfilled, we loved our experience.
Overall had a pretty great experience. Food, wine, and ambience were great! Made our anniversary dinner very nice :)
A very unique and down to earth atmosphere great place to impress a girlfriend or loved one.
My wife and I were in San Diego over the weekend, and I had made online reservations. When we showed up at the restaurant we were the only ones there. Is that a "red flag"? Not in this case, within minutes the restaurant was full of people enjoying the concept of wine-tasting and having a great meal amongst friends/family. The wine dispensing concept was new to us, but allowed us to taste some good wines before we ate. We found one that we liked and used up our dispensing card, sat back and enjoyed the house special of the day, a huge halibut steak. We were well taken care of by the waitstaff and the food was fantastic!!! This is, in my opinion, a great place to take people, or in our case, a good place to go for a great meal. Thanks for a unique experience.
This was a great quiet place to take clients. My only regret was not being there to enjoy the great wine list.
The food was EXCELLENT and the wine selection was great! My wife and I are not fancy eaters (we usually go for a burger joint over a fancy steak house). The Italian cuisine here was a little more higher-end than we go for, but it was well worth it! The ravioli and other pasta dishes were great and the bread with dipping vinegar were AWESOME! If you enjoy wine, an intimate atmosphere and good Italian dishes, then this place is for you!