I’ve been to Monello a couple of times but hadn’t yet tried the other restaurant, Bencotto, which is right next door. Bencotto is like the older brother restaurant. It’s a little more “fine dining” than Monello. Last Saturday Jake and I decided to sell our Padres tickets for that evening since it was just TOO HOT to go and sit in the sun for several hours. Dinner in Little Italy sounded like a way better idea. We also went early like old folks so parking would be easier!
[complimentary house bread]
We blissfully sat in the corner in the A/C restaurant and were happily given some complimentary crusty bread with olive oil and a teeny amount of balsamic. The bread was still hot and had a wonderful crispy crust. I had to remind myself to not keep eating the bread! The olive oil was also really nice – it had a nice bold flavor to it that complimented the bread very nicely.
[riso fritto / $12]
Whoever thought of risotto balls is a genius. Take creamy risotto, bread it and then fry it so you get the best of both worlds – a rich, creamy, silky middle with a slightly crunchy exterior!
These particular risotto balls also had a bit of saffron in them giving them this wonderful golden color on the inside. They are served with a very meaty bolognese sauce. The bolognese sauce was very good (Jake said he would have liked it if it was a little sweeter but I thought it was awesome). It had a good amount of herbs and spices and the meat was very fine – no large chunks of meat in the sauce.
[gnocco fritto – basket of lightly fried puffed bread dough / $4]
I see “fried dough” on a menu and I think, “Must order!” And most of the time I’m not let down but these weren’t quite what I expected. They looked more like oversized, puffy ravioli. They definitely were not kidding about the “puffed” part either. These suckers had a ton of air inside of them. They also weren’t totally crispy – and were a bit on the chewier side. They don’t come with anything else and are kind of bland on their own. We dipped them in the meat sauce and that helped a little but I’d pass on getting these next time especially since you already get some awesome complimentary bread.
And finally… entree time! Just look at the size of this MASSIVE lasagna! I think my eyes just about popped out of my head when this was placed before me.
[lasagna alla bolognese / $18]
The lasagna alla bolognese is made with layers of housemade pasta with meat and besciamella sauce. There’s actually no ricotta in this dish which I didn’t even notice until half way through my meal. The sauces combine super powers to create a rich, creamy sauce with bits of meats The housemade pasta makes an incredible difference here and I have to say I didn’t even miss the extra cheese. There are so many layers of noodles and sauce and I only managed to eat about half of this gigantic piece of luscious lasagna. If I had a top 5 lasagna list, this would definitely be on it!
[gnocchi ripiene + meatballs / $19 + $5]
Jake surprised me by ordereing the Gnocchi Ripieni. These large gnocchi (which looked more like puffy round smooth edged ravioli to me) are filled with gorgonzola cheese and Jake isn’t the biggest fan of blue type cheeses. He added on meatballs along with meat sauce because he’s a boy and he likes things extra, extra meaty (heehee). I took a bite of the creamy gnocchi and after one bite I said, “Whoa… that is really, really rich.” The gorgonzola filling was a bit pungent and borderline overpowering. Even eating it with the meat sauce and meatballs, the gorgonzola really does knock you over the head. The waiter did warn Jake beforehand about the blue cheese but he insisted on getting it. I definitely feel it’s a “to share” dish and gave Jake plenty of my lasagna to give his tastebuds a rest.
We didn’t get dessert at Bencotto since I had plans.
Plans that were dashed when I saw this sign at iDessert.
I believe this occurred shortly before we got there since I could still see the workers inside and I could see all the lovely shells of the desserts. I was SO BUMMED. I think I just stood in front of the door frowning for a good two minutes before sighing loudly and sitting down to figure out Plan B.
[cannoli / $3.50]
Jake wasn’t in the mood to wander so I ended up going to Napizza and getting a cannoli filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta cheese and tons of little chocolate chips on the end. Don’t get me wrong – it was really good – but when you have your heart set on something, everything else just seems disappointing. I was emotionally disappointed but don’t let that fool you – in any normal circumstance I would have loved this thing.
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