Rovino, Italian Cuisine in San Diego, California

When eating your way through San Diego’s Little Italy, a stop at the award-winning Rovino is required. The name Rovino is a combination of rotisserie plus wine, so you can expect to find an award-winning wine list and succulent rotisserie chicken.

Location: Rovino, located at 2034 Kettner Boulevard in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego, California.

Menu: The menu consists of Sicilian and Northern Italian cuisine, supported by fresh ingredients from local growers. Also, known as a wine bar, their wine menu is a compilation of wines completely from Italy and Sicily.

Their pasta and the accompanying sauces are house-made daily. The chicken is free-range and hormone-free. The meat is free of hormones. Gluten-free options, including pasta and flatbreads, are available. Vegan dishes are also available.

Thoughts: The quaint restaurant has about a half a dozen tables inside and another five outside, covered with a black and white striped awning. One wall of the restaurant opens entirely to the outside so that you can enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather.

Along the exposed-brick back wall is a display of wine showcasing the wide variety of wines from Italy and Sicily available. A collage of family photos decorates another wall. Keeping it casual, linen dishtowels with gray vertical stripes serve as napkins, while stemmed wine and water goblets add a touch of elegance.

Servers uniformed in white button-down shirts, black dress slacks, and a black bow tie, describe desserts via a dessert tray. While black and white striped aprons tied at the waist add to their attire.

The ciabatta isn’t served warm; however, you can request it that way if you prefer. The bread comes with olive oil and a thick reduction of balsamic perfect for dipping. The balsamic is so thick that it doesn’t drip as you dip.

Some of my favorite dishes include the:

  • Arancini, which are saffron rice balls filled with beef ragu, mozzarella cheese, and peas. Then the rice balls are hand-breaded in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. The chef plates them on a piece of look-alike Italian newspaper, atop a bed of arugula. Topped with Parmesan cheese and parsley, they’re slightly crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Finally, a house-made marinara accompanies the dish for dipping.
  • Bruschetta made with fresh heirloom tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. A thick balsamic reduction accompanies the dish on the side so that you can control the drizzle. They serve the tomato mixture on slightly crisp crostini and place them on a bed of arugula.
  • Gnocchi Rovino is house-made potato gnocchi topped with sun-dried tomato pesto and herby breadcrumbs. The rose-colored sauce has a bit of heat from the Calabrian chiles.
  • The free-range, hormone-free chicken is marinated 18 hours and cooked on the rotisserie for 14 hours. Half of a chicken comes as a serving, leaving plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. The chicken flakes apart and then melts in your mouth. You’ll find this same tasty chicken on the chicken Fettuccini Alfredo.

Price Range: Piccoli Morsi or small bites range from $14 for the bruschetta or whole roasted artichoke to $26 for the tagliere. Flatbreads range from $16 to $17. Entrée salads run from $12 to $15. Primi Piatti, pasta costs from $18 to $25. Secondi Piatti, entrées start at $24 for the rotisserie chicken to $43 for a combination meat platter. Lunch for two is about $75, including tax and gratuity.

Amy Piper

Amy Piper is a freelance food and travel writer. She writes about food and multi-generational travel on her blog Follow the Piper. You can follow her on Twitter @amythepiper.

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