For almost a decade, BiCE was a go-to spot in the Gaslamp Quarter for upscale Italian cuisine. When the restaurant shuttered in the summer of 2017, partner and executive chef Mario Cassineri pointed to high operating costs and a decline in the demand for fine dining.
Fortunately, Mario and his wife Francesca (who presided over BiCE’s extensive cheese case) didn’t pack it in and leave town. Instead, they dared to dream about something new, something casual, and something entirely their own.
Stepping away from fine dining was an opportunity for a fresh start.
Mario and Francesca discovered a retail space in Barrio Logan, adjacent to Barrio Dogg, that was pure potential. An iron gate blocked entry from the sidewalk, and the dirty stucco was far from welcoming, but now, Ciccia Osteria sparkles with warmth and cheer.
Outside, greenery spills from planters over the front door, while inside, the walls are adorned with colorful plates, wine crates, and framed family recipes.
At Ciccia, Francesca is the chef and Mario can be seen greeting guests, running plates from the kitchen, and stoking the wood-fired pizza oven on the front patio that is used to cook entrees like whole fish and tomahawk steaks.
Customers order at the counter and casual Italian is the name of the game, though some fine dining touches—like a killer bread service—remain.
Thin slices of soft white bread with a sesame seed crust and two varieties of focaccia arrive alongside a ramekin of truffle butter with chile and balsamic vinegar.
The comprehensive menu spans appetizers, leafy salads, pasta, and dessert. Early favorites include the tricolore salad (with kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbage), lasagna, and mushroom flan with a crispy pecorino cheese crust.
Chef Francesca’s pasta menu encourages diners to explore new shapes, sauces, and flavor combinations, with enticing plates like the Mezzaluna (half moon pasta pockets stuffed with pear and topped with gorgonzola and walnut sauce) and Pizzoccheri (short, flat buckwheat noodles with potatoes, Swiss chard, and sage).
On my visit, I fell hard for the Bottoni, a round, button-shaped pasta filled prosciutto and fluffy potato, topped with a rich parmesan sauce, green peas, and prosciutto.
Vegan diners can choose from eight pasta dishes made without meat or animal products. The vegan version of the Sombreri, a whimsical handmade pasta shaped like Mexican hats topped with a delicate and slightly sweet saffron and bell pepper sauce, subs pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes for the standard presentation with sausage and mascarpone cheese.
Gluten-free diners are covered too with the option to simply swap in gluten-free spaghetti, maccheroni, or lemon fettuccine to any dish.
Roving food runners will likely ask if you want dessert.
After seeing numerous plates of tiramisu, “ugly” chocolate cake, and panna cotta emerge from the kitchen, I knew the answer was yes.
Deliberation was intense but ultimately resulted in a slice of ricotta cake, which arrived with a spicy stone fruit compote on top.
Were the place not packed, I might have licked the plate.
Visit Ciccia Osteria
2233 Logan Avenue, Barrio Logan
Open for dinner Monday, Thursday, and Friday; open for lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday; closed on Tuesday and Wednesday