Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Toast Enoteca & Cucina

Recently I was invited to visit Toast Enoteca and Cucina to sample the restaurant's gluten free menu.  After a bit of back-and-forth planning with the PR representative we settled on a date which worked for the restaurant.  I had originally chosen a night when the Padres were playing and was warned that Padres games could create a major parking dilemma so I decided to steer for a Padres-free night.  Fortunately my friend Katie and I achieved that, so much so that we were the only two people in the restaurant for our entire meal!  Katie has lived in San Diego for the majority of her life (but I won't say born and raised since I know she has some east coast time in her record) and she filled me in on San Diego's relatively new downtown renaissance.  Having come most recently from New York I compared San Diego's downtown similar to New York's Financial District or Los Angeles' downtown; busy during the day, but pretty desolate at night.

Regardless of the restaurant's neighborhood the restaurant itself was friendly and welcoming.  I was a bit late so I joined Katie at our table and noticed she had an iPad.  I joked that she brought her own in case she got bored when it was the restaurant's method of displaying its wine menu.  I was very perplexed; I hadn't seen a menu presented on an iPad, particularly in a restaurant with the upscale feel of Toast Enoteca and Cucina.  After we placed our wine order (Cabernet Sauvignon for me) I asked the waitress about the rationale behind  the iPad and she explained that the restaurant introduces new bottles of wine so frequently it made more sense to have them displayed on an iPad rather than having to often reprint paper menus.  The restaurant also has a unique way of serving its wine; while you can order the normal full glass of wine, you can also purchase a card and place a certain amount of money on it to have smaller tastes of various wines.  Each wine has a different price per taste.  I've seen bars like this before (Ugo in Culver City, for example) but never indulged myself in the experience.  Katie and I sat it out this time, but perhaps next time I go to a similar restaurant or bar I'll go wild and taste a bunch of wines.

Moving on to the real reason you're here: the gluten free options.  The waitress was helpful in explaining the gluten free options and the menu in some cases speaks for itself, with markings alongside options that can be made gluten free (and/or vegetarian).  I ordered gluten free spaghetti with diavola sauce, Katie ordered a gluten free Verde Bianco e Rosso pizza and we decided to split an order of roasted cauliflower with cheese in a tomato sauce (which doesn't appear on the restaurant's online menu here).  All of the restaurant's gluten free options like the pizza crust and spaghetti are made in house; later on in our meal the manager came over and told us that the restaurant often changes up its gluten free pasta offering, including ravioli, fettuccine, and ravioli.

While we sipped our wine and caught up the cauliflower was delivered to our table.  It was dripping in a thin tomato broth and delicately covered with melted cheese.  In a word: delicious.  It wasn't too heavy nor too light as the beginning of our meal.

Our entrées were similarly excellent.  The diavola sauce had a great kick to it and the pasta had a texture that closely paralleled the taste of real pasta, not a simple task.  The pizza was similarly great and definitely a great item to share.  All in all, Toast was a definite success: the service was great, the food was delicious, and the wine flows freely from the various wine taps.  While it may not be in the most bumpin' area of town I would definitely recommend it to anybody looking for gluten free Italian options.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Toast Enoteca and Cucina
927 J Street
San Diego, CA 92101 (Map)
(619) 269-4207

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