Nothing embodies the spirit of the true Italian-American tradition in the US more than our country’s Italian-owned restaurants.  There is a general warmth, familiarity and good, authentic cooking that fills each of these establishments- it’s unmistakanle.

Baci in San Diego, is no exception.

Thanks to Brittany Carlisi, who introduced me to this old-school Italian standard, Baci is one of my favorite places to meet up with a colleague for lunch.  The waitstaff has been there for years, and the chef clearly loves what he’s doing, as evidenced in the ingredient-driven food, and honest, well-executed dishes.

In fact, we can’t start a meal without ordering a simple appetizer of local Ricci di Mare (Sea Urchin), served simply alongside a bit of garlicky toast.

The chef also uses this delicate and super-fresh shellfish in a simple spaghetti- nothing more than salt, pepper, garlic and the freshest sea urchin La Jolla’s coastline has to offer.  Bravo!

What to pair with such ocean-fresh salinity?  A wine with a mineral backbone to match- not to mention a searing acidity that will highlight the rich, creamy texture of the ricci.  We loved both dishes with Cottanera’s “Barbazzale Bianco”, a fresh, zippy young wine made with Insolia grapes from the Etna area in Sicilia.  This wine is stainless-steel fermented, lively and full of energetic green fruit.  It has a salty edge that compliments seafood dishes, and an underlying volcanic minerality that keeps everything interesting.