Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
A Little Whine with my Cheese: Oliveto Cafe & Wine Bar
Let's get the whiny part out of the way. If you go to Oliveto Cafe & Wine Bar for happy hour (3:00–6:00 p.m. daily) expecting that the half-price small plates menu will be given to you voluntarily, this will not happen. You will not be given it, even if you ask, at 5:50 p.m., "What are your happy-hour specials?" If you should, at 6:01 pm, find out that there is indeed, a happy-hour small-plates menu, and inquire of someone as to why you weren't given it when you asked (see the above quote), you can expect that person to avoid you like the plague for the rest of the evening.
So anyway, we start out with a couple of glasses of Arrogant Frog Cabernet/Merlot blend ($5 at HH) and order the artisan cheese and salumi plate ($11.95) and the calamari fritti ($10.95).
The calamari comes with a serviceable marinara and a tangy lemon aioli. It's crisp, but woefully underseasoned and just a tad overdone. It really needs some salt and pepper in the coating.
The point of an artisan cheese and salumi plate is to highlight the traditional craftsmanship of skilled cheese and sausage makers. The only descriptions we received of our plate were "Proscuitto, bleu, brie, parmesan, mozzarella, and salumi." In addition, there were a couple of marinated mushrooms, which were, with their mustardy vinaigrette, the best thing we ate all night, a bit of average caponata, and some chopped flavorless tomatoes ("bruscetta topping"). I wish that restaurants wouldn't try to serve tomato-topped bruscetta in the winter. The tomatoes aren't good, so why not come up with a seasonal substitute instead of spongy pink cubes? Say, a nice olive relish, a savory compote, or a chutney? The proscuitto was okay but cut so thickly that it was difficult to chew. The cheeses and the salumi were just sort of there, nothing more special than what you might get at Trader Joe's.
I'd been looking forward to trying Oliveto's, so I was disappointed at the average-to-bland food. It's very pretty and romantic inside; it's a shame the food and service doesn't match the surroundings in quality.
860 W. Washington St. (between Goldfinch St. & Falcon St.)
San Diego, CA 92103
Sunday - Thursday - 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Friday - Saturday - 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Metered street parking before 6 pm, some free neighborhood parking.
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