One of the most congenial personalities in the Italian food and wine scene in San Diego County has to be Roberto Vigilucci. A product of the kitchens of Milan and Tuscany, Robbie, as his friends and longtime customers call him, developed a passion for food and wine. “I was lucky to come to Southern California and Encinitas in 1994. I was at the right place and at the right time when I saw the need for a classic Italian restaurant in the downtown area,” he said. “Then, very few people walked and ate downtown. Now there is a busy nightlife and a lot of travelers who have been to Italy and want that rustic old world experience. They are eating later and coming back.”
Roberto recently celebrated his 15th anniversary and announced the coming of his eighth San Diego County location in Coronado with an expected May opening. It will have stunning views from the main dining room. “All of my restaurants are a little bit different, but the marinara red sauce is the same high quality in all my locations. Also, my family recipe for Osso Buco Veal Shank is consistent in all my locations”
I asked Roberto how he manages to keep quality control in all of his restaurants. “I make sure I taste the sauce in each location. That tells me if it passes my taste test, and is ready for my customers.” The current Carlsbad coastal, La Jolla and the soon-to-be Coronado location have a seafood, steak and chop house format with elegant fixtures, some from the famed Murano glass factories in Venice.
The conversation came around to the wines in Robbie’s collection. He carries some 400 selections in the Encinitas location, including his own Vigilucci Merlot, which tasted velvety smooth. The real treasure trove is in his La Jolla location in a private cellar, full of Italian classics from Gaja and Amerone; and “Super Tuscans” like Tignanello, Sassicaia and Ornellaia. “I love collecting wines from all over the world, but they are all on the menu so that we can sell them,” he said.
With a Mediterranean twinkle in his eye, Robbie revealed that he is building out a gourmet imported Italian marketplace late this year with the best cheeses, cold cuts, olives, breads, pastas and other delicious Italian food and wine. It will also serve as a catering outlet. “Perfettto!”
Portugal is more than just Port
The world of Port, real Port, is exclusively a Portugese creation. Vintage Port is the top of the line and can be expensive as it offers many years of cultivation to taste its best. A “late bottled Vintage Port” about 10 years old is more approachable and the cost savings makes it worth a try. These lovely sipping wines are from the Douro Valley, a winegrowing area that is attracting interest and not just for Port. This appellation in northeast Portugal has more than 2,000 years of winemaking history. The new winemakers, the “Douro Boys,” are obsessed with quality in the table wines they make. They work with the steep hillsides and crevices made of granite that drains well. The roots burrow deeply, and that is critical to survive the very hot, mostly dry climate.
The five leading grape varietals to look for are: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cao, Touriga Francesca and Tinta Roriz. Touriga Nacional is the most important and is used to in Port.
— The Pacific Coast Wine Festival at the five-diamond Island Hotel in Newport Beach is planned for March 21 starting at 5:30 p.m. to support Orange County’s Pacific Symphony and its children’s programs. Events include a Wine Auction of rare wines and a sumptuous wine dinner. You will also be sampling from an array of fine wineries. Limit 300 attendees. Tickets are $250 per person. Call (714) 876-2363 or visit www.pacificcoastwinefestival.org for details.
— 3rd Corner Encinitas has a fascinating wine tasting related to our Portugal wine article. Now you can taste test them with Spanish wines from 2 to 5 p.m. March 14 for only $10 each. Call (760) 942-2104 for more.
— Tastes in Encinitas is planning a winemaker dinner at 6 p.m. March 15. A five-course dinner will pair with the wines of Pisoni and Lucia Vineyards. Gary Pisoni will be there to present his wines, including his favorite Pinot Noirs. The cost is $130. Call (760) 942-9549 for RSVPs.
— Friar’s Folly in San Marcos has remade Mondays as popular wine-drinking happy hours. Great discounts by the glass and themes like tarot reading, matchmaker Mondays and lots more surprises. Call (760) 736-8035 for details.
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