House-made roast beef on Buona Forchetta flatbread, with splashes of balsamic vinegar
When word broke last year that the hip Italian restaurant in my neighborhood was opening a bodega on the same block, it primed me for a 2018 anticipating all the authentic, imported delights it would bring. In all my musings about how great it would be to have Roman pizza and take-home pasta sauces a short walk from home, it never once occurred to me that my first big takeaway would be a roast beef sandwich.
3011 Beech St, San Diego
Not that I’m complaining.
Enoteca Buona Forchetta sits just two doors down from the original Buona Forchetta, the South Park restaurant so popular, even my dog expects to find a thick crowd of diners waiting outside when we pass by on our evening walks.
The largest of several varieties of olive served and sold at Enoteca Buona Forchetta
The word enoteca roughly translates to ‘wine bar,’ so there was never any doubt the place would offer a selection of Italian wines. It makes sense Buona Forchetta would open such a bar close by. An evening table at the restaurant usually requires an hour or longer wait, so diners habitually cross the street for drinks while they wait: beers at South Park Brewing Co. or cocktails at vegan restaurant Bar Kindred. Now, the hostess can steer them to the Enoteca for wines and Italian appetizers.
A wine bar and Italian market now open in South Park
The news out of last year was that the new sister shop would offer Roman-style pizza, baked in long rectangles and cut into slices with scissors. That rumor has not materialized. Enoteca has a small dining room and even smaller kitchen, and they tell me the Roman pizza will instead be made and served at the Buona Forchetta bakery slated to open elsewhere in South Park, at the site of the old Rebecca’s Coffee House.
Buona Forchetta's new wine bar sits two doors down from the original.
Buona Forchetta pizza dough and take-home sauces would purportedly be on the menu, but while that may eventually be the case, they aren’t yet. You can buy plenty of packaged Italian pastas in a bevy of shapes, and jarred marinara and cans of imported tomatoes. Such items will get you started making authentically Italian dishes in your own kitchen, along with other market items out of the bar’s glass counter: Italian deli meats and cheeses, plus pickled garnishes including olives, artichokes, and the classic spicy vegetable mix, giardiniera. There’s even a large variety of cerignola olives ($8/lb.); while buttery and crisp, bite gently, because the pit is huge.
The meats and cheeses compose most of the food menu. You may order tasting boards of selecting three meats and cheeses each ($12.99) or five each ($15.99). Meats include imported prosciutto, porchetta, and bresaola; cheeses include smoked mozzarella, pecorino, and brie. Any of the above may be ordered in sandwiches.
The place is open for breakfast from Wednesday to Sunday, making use of an espresso machine and house baked pastries, and I enjoyed a simple yet delicious chocolate croissant. But my favorite so far has been that roast beef sandwich. Though not what I expected, it starts as all Enoteca’s paninis do, with oven-charred flatbread cut from Buona Forchetta pizza dough, which is always satisfying for teeth to tear into. Unlike the imported deli meats, this beef is roasted in-house. It’s got deep yet mellow umami, a nice pink center, and comes thinly sliced on that bread along with avocado, arugula, provolone, cheese, and splashes of balsamic vinegar.
My dog will probably get used to me walking past the crowd to grab this $7.99 sandwich.