A Fresh Local Flavor
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.
For the future, O’Donnell hopes to “keep things constantly fresh and progressing, keep everyone on their toes, but always keep our core items in place.” As long as those core items include exquisite wine, tantalizing food and a welcoming atmosphere, Dolce Pane E Vino will enjoy the patronage of its guests for many years to come.
Dolce Pane E Vino is open every day for lunch and dinner and brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays.
Dolce Pane E Vino
Del Rayo Center
16081 San Dieguito Road
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067