Rancho Santa Fe Review

  • Summit 4 Stem Cell
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    Dolce Pane e Vino, a wine bar and restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe, located in the Del Rayo Village Shopping Center, is sponsoring Summit4StemCell for the month of April (Parkinson’s month) in raising funds for Summit4StemCell’s research. Dolce Pane & Vino has agreed to donate $1 for every glass of white and red wine ordered during the month of April.

    Rancho Santa Fe Review

    • Buster’s Memorial Car Show in Rancho Santa Fe - 4/26/2012
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    Dolce Pane E Vino in Rancho Santa Fe held the second annual Buster’s Memorial Car Show (dedicated to owner Dr. Anthony Smith’s dad) on April 22.

    DoubleDown provided live music, with 10 percent of event proceeds benefiting Casa de Amparo.

The Coast News

  • Dolce Pane E Vino Offers an Old-World Atmosphere - 1/13/2012
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    Tucked away in a small shopping center in Rancho Santa Fe, Dolce Pane E Vino has this pixie-like atmosphere to it, to the point that I am always looking for Alice in Wonderland to sit next to me in the bar, ordering up one of those fabulous wines that are racked up throughout the wine bar and restaurant area.
    Executive Chef John Weimann, left, and General Manager Steve Flowers of Dolce Pane E Vino, share a glass in their wine bar and small-bites restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe. Photo by Frank Mangio
    The room is at once cozy, beautiful and fascinating, with the charm of old-world Italy. Dolce Pane E Vino means sweet bread and wine in Italian and was created by Dr. Anthony Smith almost two years ago, but really hit its stride when Steve Flowers came in as general manager, with his passion for world-class wine excellence. Details later, but I want to get into more of the “wow” architectural touches that blew me away.
    A quick smile and a dose of merriment comes to all who snuggle into the family-style tables that are crafted for sharing, and the lighting with Italian glass that drops down from the ceiling like so many fireflies.
OK, let’s get to what most customers come in for — spectacular cuisine and that specially selected, handcrafted wine that will keep you smiling.
    Executive Chef John Weimann on selected menu creations: “My salad is a seared Hamachi fresh fish with arugula, orange and ginger vinaigrette mixed. On top, a sliced avocado with mixed citrus and fennel. Also fried shallot with Uzu Juice and house-made lemon oil.” Perfect.
    Flowers on the entrée: “It’s a Wild King Salmon served on a cedar plank, wood fired in the open oven, garnished with sea salt and charred asparagus, drizzled with lemon and saba.” He went on about the wine selected. “A white Barola Bianca from Piedmont Italy, vintage 2009. It has crispy fruit that comes through the Italian-style wine minerality.”
    Two more reasons to get to know Dolce Pane E Vino. One is the imported artisan cheeses “to go” case, affectionately known as the “Formaggeria.”
    The second is the exclusive membership Reserve 100. This wine program gives access to top-tier wines at great values from the top winemakers in the world.
    Every other month members will receive two bottles each of three ultra-fine wines with tasting notes, reviews and food-pairing ideas. A typical recent trio of wines included: 2005 Col Solare Blend, 94 points; 2007 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Napa, 95 points; and the 2007 Quintessa Rutherford Red Meritage, 95 points.
    Make it into this wonderland of mirth and merriment by accessing or calling (858) 832-1518.

La Jolla Light

  • Life is sweet when dining at Dolce Pane E Vino in Rancho Santa Fe- 2/13/2012
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    By Daniel K. Lew
    There are plenty of wine bars and fine-dining establishments in the area, but Dolce Pane E Vino merges those concepts as a wine bar, restaurant and cheese/wine shop all-in-one. Dolce, which means “sweet” in Italian, aims to provide its guests with an overall sweet experience in wine, cuisine and service, said owner Anthony Smith.
    Dolce is the first restaurant for Smith, a management consultant and co-founder of the Leadership Research Institute in Rancho Santa Fe, but he said he has “always had a passion to create a warm and whimsical environment where you can enjoy wine and wonderful food.”
    Opened in 2010, Dolce has been discovered by locals, many of whom visit a few times a week. Smith said he is proud Dolce has already become like a “Cheers” bar, where everyone knows your name — with friendships formed among customers and employees. “What I am most proud of is the staff, from the kitchen staff to everyone in both the back and front of the house,” said Smith, who added he is fortunate to have “sweet, lovely people with a friendly vibe and passion for serving customers.”
    Dolce appeals to anyone looking for Italian-inspired California cuisine served in an area with artisan furnishings, glass-blown lighting; and communal, custom-carved wood tables. “I really wanted this place to feel like a living room, like you’re coming over to my house, instead of a restaurant,” said Smith, who intentionally hired a home builder to help with some of the design.
    The open-view kitchen also adds to the comfortable setting, especially with a large, wood-and-brick-fire oven as the primary cooking source. The unconventional kitchen does not have any burners or standard ovens. The kitchen staff, headed by chefs Jon Weimann and Jonny Fussell, have developed a knack for the intricacies of using a single oven to dish out a variety of dishes: flatbread pizzas, panini sandwiches, roasted vegetables, and many choices for small plates or big-plate entrees.
    The chefs also follow a “farm to table” philosophy of getting much of its ingredients from local sources, including the much-lauded Chino Farm only minutes away. Flatbreads, made with hand-stretched dough and topped with a variety of ingredients, are the most popular. The bestseller is a Salumi Flatbread with sausage, bacon, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.
    Carlsbad Mussels (locally farmed with herbed tomato broth and crostini) and Hamachi (sushi-grade fish with capers, shallots, ginger, citrus, pasilla aoli, and Okinawa potato chips) are the signature small plates.
Dolce’s usage of a 700-degree oven to prepare entrees makes dishes like its Cedar Plank Scottish Salmon (with charred asparagus, lemon, and saba) and Half-Chicken Roasted Under Brick (with roasted potatoes, haricot vert, fried farm egg, and chicken reduction) result in a unique take on traditional entrees. The high heat produces a crispy texture on the outside of meats while sealing in the juices inside, along with smoky flavor from the oven’s mesquite and pecan woods.
    “We keep the dishes simple and let the fresh ingredients speak for themselves,” said Steven Flowers, general manager and sommelier.
One corner of Dolce is called the Formaggeria — a shop where patrons can grab-and-go a bottle of wine, daily-baked baguette, and select from several cheeses and Italian meats on display.
    Upon walking in the door, guests see a nearly floor-to-ceiling “wine wall” holding some of the hundreds of wine in stock. Wine-bottle storage walls also divide up the spacious establishment between the bar, lounge area with sofas, and dining tables.
    “Our mission is to provide our clientele with incredible wines that are value-driven and hard to find,” Flowers said. “We have a vast selection from diamonds-in-the-rough to highly allocated, to the cult stars.” Flowers also seeks out limited production and highly collectible wines for the Dolce Reserve 100 Wine Club.

Union Tribune San Diego

  • Meet Dolce Pane E Vino's Top Flatbread - 1/12/2012
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    Just parking next to a Rolls-Royce Phantom feels like an honor.
    So I was feeling high-living excitement when I stowed my ride next to a Roller outside Dolce Pane E Vino, and plopped onto a comfy sofa-booth by two ballet moms and a French-speaking couple inside.
    The Rancho Santa Fe wine bar/restaurant is casual luxe – cloth napkins, if you ask for tabasco sauce for your cedar plank Scottish salmon (the French talkers did), it’s poured into a glass salt cellar and presented with a spoon. I like that.
    And I like that Dolce’s also a place for cap-wearing 40-somethings watching football at the bar, and Sia anthems playing on the sound system, and wine-bottle storage walls dividing the warm room into pockets of cozy cover – or “look at me” pub-table seating.
    And I believed in the goodness of this place once I realized its organic, Chino Farm-mentioning menu had food within my entry-level Toyota means.
    Try the wine flights. Gulps of three Cali red wines (La Jota, Archipel Meritage, and Justin) recently went for $16.
    To wit, the No. 1-selling flatbread at Dolce, the $18 salumi, sausage, bacon, crushed San Marzano heirloom tomatoes with a mozzarella cheese.
    It took me back to my Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage childhood, my teenage fumblings with Canadian bacon pizza, and my grown-up forays into bacon pizza… All on dough bulldozed to a thin almost-cracker that’s been flame-licked in a wood-fired oven fed with oak, mesquite and pecan woods.
    Chef Jon Wiemann’s open kitchen cooks its mussels, steaks, free-range chicken – all its small plates and entrees – in that 600-plus-degree oven.
    But back to the flatbread, it’s about the size of a big round dinner plate, and, carved into six slices, it’s a premium personal pizza.
    “I just love this place,” one ballet mom said.
    Yeah, who doesn’t like the good life? (619) 293-1541 Twitter @kelidailey


Dream Villager

  • A Fresh Local Flavor - 4/27/2011
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    Just over a year after opening its doors, Dolce Pane E Vino, a Rancho Santa Fe establishment located in the Del Rayo Center, has become a staple for residents and visitors alike desiring a high-quality, yet casual, dining experience. The “mirth and merriment” are readily apparent when you enter the restaurant, as a comfortable and inviting ambiance arises from the décor, art and open kitchen.

    One cannot, however, miss the giant wine rack that dominates the restaurant’s entrance. Initially conceived as a “wine-focused restaurant with some small appetizers, pizza, and panini,” according to executive chef Chris O’Donnell, Dolce first centered its appeal on a comprehensive wine selection. The wine list boasts over 200 different wines from several countries, ranging from light and effervescent whites to full-bodied reds and everything in between.

    The owner and self-identified “Czar of Mirth and Merriment,” Anthony (Tony) F. Smith, lives right up the road from his restaurant. He had already occupied office space in the Del Rayo Center when another vacancy appeared. Smith took the opportunity to pounce on it. “Tony eyed the space for awhile. He wanted a place that he and his friends in Rancho Santa Fe could go to for a good time,” says Chef O’Donnell. “He believed he could fill a need in his community for high-end casual dining.”

    Don’t let the word “casual” fool you, however, because Smith brings a lifetime of culinary experience to Dolce, having traveled all over the world researching cuisine. In addition to his considerable knowledge of food and dining, another of his strengths is his ability to surround himself with a creative group.

    His team at Dolce includes General Manager and “Wine Wizard” Steven Flowers, whose resume includes tenures at the Ritz-Carlton in Houston and Donovan’s in San Diego, as well as the opening of eight restaurants, several with local restaurateur Robbie Vigilucci; and Chef Chris O’Donnell, who specializes in fresh, modern cuisine and gained restaurant experience from Pascal Vignau at Savory and Bradley Ogden and Carl Schroeder at Arterra.

    After a stint as a personal chef to perfect his craft, O’Donnell now brings his eye for quality to Dolce. “We try to use as many local and fresh ingredients as possible. As many from Southern California as possible,” he explains. “We get most of our produce from Chino Farms, which is one mile away.”

    The menu itself has constantly evolved since its smaller beginnings of appetizers and panini. O’Donnell says that guests started to ask for more substantial items, bigger entrees and a wider variety of meats. Dolce now offers several different entrees ranging from prime beef to mussels obtained locally from Carlsbad Aquafarm.

    This attention to quality has garnered the attention of San Diego’s gourmands, as the restaurant has already netted itself several accolades from local publications and continues to attract not just locals but others from across San Diego.

North County Times

  • NOW SERVING: Dolce Pane e Vino off to sweet start - 3/4/2010
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    RANCHO SANTA FE —- Five years ago, leadership consultant Anthony F. Smith told the landlord in the Del Rayo center where he leased an office that if the corner shop ever opened up, to give him a call. Smith, the author of “ESPN The Company” and “The Taboos of Leadership,” wanted to turn the then-occupied shop space into a restaurant/wine bar concept he’d been dreaming about for many years. Ten months ago, the call came through. His dream has become a reality with the debut of Dolce Pane e Vino, a rustic Italian-style wine bar, restaurant and cheese shop that’s been doing a bustling business since it opened eight weeks ago. Smith co-owns Dolce Pane e Vino (Italian for “sweet bread and wine”) with managing partner/sommelier Michael C. Melone, a 20-year restaurant veteran and the former food and beverage director at the nearby Santaluz Club. Since the 2,600-square-foot restaurant opened in late December, it’s become a big draw for residents of Santaluz and the four other country clubs that surround it. “I’d say 97 percent of our customers live within three miles of here,” Melone said. “This is a place where Santaluz people can sit with Del Mar Country Club folks and Fairbanks Ranch residents and get to know each other. It’s a place where people can go where they don’t have to be behind any gates.” Smith, a fourth-generation San Diegan who lives in Del Mar Country Club, describes Dolce as a “sweet, comfortable, homey spot that’s warm, inviting and unpretentious.” The interior design of warm colors, artisan lighting, artwork and dishes and handmade exotic wood tables (all from coastal North County designers, artists and suppliers) is in keeping with the restaurant’s concept of farm-to-table and locally sourced menu items. The restaurant sells more than 200 wines by the bottle, about 30 wines by the glass (mostly California varietals, with some rare boutique labels and international vintages), and a small plates menu that North Park resident Melone describes as “Tuscan-influenced California cuisine.” There’s also a small cheese shop on-site that sells 30 to 40 imported and domestic cheeses, imported meats and other artisan food items. The restaurant’s sole cooking source is a 700-degree wood-fired brick oven, which narrows the menu choices considerably, though executive chef Chris O’Donnell, 24, has been coming up with creative new items almost daily. An Orange County native, he trained under North County chefs Pascal Vignau at Savory, Bradley Ogden at Arterra and Carl Schroeder at Arterra and Market. A few years ago, he took a job as a personal chef to give himself time to develop a signature style. At Dolce, he makes all his own doughs, sauces, soups, gelatos and even cheeses. The restaurant’s menu features Naples-style flatbread pizzas, panini, bruschetta, spiedini (meat and seafood skewers), salads, soups and antipasti, such as cedar plank-roasted Loch Duarte Salmon with charred asparagus, lemon and saba, and Carpaccio of Wagyu Beef. Dishes come as small, shareable portions so diners can order as many (or few) as they wish. Most are priced from $9 to $15. On a recent Tuesday, every table in the restaurant was full, with large parties ordering multiple menu items to pass around. This was right in line with Melone’s goal of bringing together residents from all over the community. He said that during one particularly busy evening two weeks ago, all of the smaller tables were full, so four unrelated couples decided to share a communal table near the kitchen. Within 15 minutes, they had become friends, were spinning their dishes around to share on the lazy susan in the center of the table, and made plans to meet regularly for dinner parties, he said. In coming months, Melone said he will add winemaker dinners, a chef’s table option and evening patio dining. Ultimately, he and Smith would like to open a couple of more locations in Santa Barbara and Laguna.