Sbicca Bistro — Tasty Reunion

| September 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

David Rottenberg shares his favorite meals.

by David Rottenberg

I felt like I was going to see an old friend, whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. I wondered as I drove why I had stayed away so long. It was always so good to see him.

I’m referring to Sbicca Bistro, one of my favorite restaurants. Time slipped away from me as I was busy traveling and doing so many other things. It had been a while. When I rounded the corner of 15th Street and Avenida Del Mar and saw a parking space right in front, I sensed it would be a great evening. It turned out to be a very tasty reunion.
Dan and Susan Sbicca started the restaurant more than 14 years ago, taking over the location of a prior restaurant that was famous for its breakfasts and popovers. Dan ran the front of the house, the hospitality side, and focused on building a quality wine cellar. Susan became the executive chef and created a list of popular dishes, a menu of American favorites. The restaurant prospered and won numerous awards. It earned the Gold Medallion award from the local branch of the California Restaurant Association and the Gold Award of Merit from the Southern California Restaurant Writers. Dan’s wine cellar was so good that it won awards from Wine Spectator Magazine for several years in a row.

Bryan Graham is now the executive chef, continuing the tradition of fine cuisine utilizing organic produce, sustainable seafood and hormone free meat, whenever possible. He trained in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Then he worked in Martha’s Vineyard and Boston — all close to the sea. He knows how to prepare seafood superbly.

He’s given the menu his own touch of excellence, although some of older popular dishes are still on the menu.
Sbicca Bistro is located in Del Mar, near one of its major intersections, 15th Street and Avenida Del Mar. It is across the street from L’Auberge Del Mar Resort, kittycorner to Del Mar Plaza. Diners sitting on the patio in front can enjoy the kaleidoscope of pedestrians walking by. On a lovely summer evening, it is virtually a parade of tourists and locals enjoying the area. The restaurant is only a block from the beach.

In addition to the front patio, guests can dine on the side patio, in the main dining room or on an upper deck, which offers ocean views. The bar area is near the main entrance and features its own “bar menu” with money saving discounts during a daily “happy hour.”

The one page menu is divided into “first” (appetizer) and “second” (entrée) course selections. The former include shrimp and sweet corn fritters and a wonderful arugula salad with Carlsbad strawberries and almonds in terrific balsamic vinaigrette. The grilled summer vegetable stack with spinach and parmesan in lemon garlic oil is actually served cold and is very tasty. One of the older, classic dishes is the lobster and shrimp bisque. It was delightfully rich, with lots of butter and cream and breathed with a strong aroma and taste of lobster. It did have a strong tomato overtone, though, and lacked the chunks of lobster that I’ve come to expect. But, it was delicious.

There is a wide selection of entrees. Seafood is represented by pan roasted white sea bass and an excellent maple jalapeno glazed grilled Scottish salmon. Sea scallops over roasted summer vegetables are very satisfying. Cioppino overflows with shrimp, clam and mussel. The roasted pork prime rib is another older, classic dish, with a large portion of meat that is tender and moist throughout but delightfully glazed and crisp around the edges. Vegetarians will be delighted with the grilled portobella mushroom with truffle oil and vegetable lentil salad.

Desserts include a warm chocolate fudge brownie with espresso gelato, maple and almond bread pudding, and an “adult” alcoholic root beer float. Be sure to save room for the wonderful finish to the meal.
It is the wine programs that also bring diners again and again to Sbicca. The award winning wine list includes selections many excellent and hard-to-find labels at reasonable prices. Better yet, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, many wines are available at half off. A 50 percent reduction can lead to some pretty substantial savings. And, if one can’t find what he wants, he can bring his own wine to dinner. There is no corkage charge on Sundays and Mondays.

Sbicca Bistro is open for lunch and dinner daily and has a daily happy hour 4-6:30 pm. Breakfast and brunch are also served on weekend.

Sbicca Bisto offers wonderful cuisine in a casual, relaxed setting with reasonable prices and great wine selections. I’m delighted to have rediscovered it, to have enjoyed a tasty reunion.

Sbicca Bistro is located at 215 15th Street in Del Mar. Reservations are recommended. Call 858-481-1001 for reservations and information.

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