First Look: Ciccia Osteria
Husband-and-wife chefs take a break from high-end cuisine with a ‘little house’
“This is our dream, a little house.”
Mario Cassineri is talking about Ciccia Osteria, his and his wife Francesca’s new restaurant in Barrio Logan. There are no investors. No big-name designer. It’s just a place where families used to sleep, cook, live. Housemade pasta will be sold in the spots where report cards were once scrutinized. What was once a bedroom is now the osteria’s upstairs dining room. The bedroom window has a small bar that looks out on the street below.
Cassineri talks about Ciccia in the same way people talk about their favorite chair or church—with a relieved, unburdened sigh. It’s the right size and the right vibe for their right now. Because they’ve been running for years now. Starting with BiCE in the Gaslamp (2009–2017) and on to Madison on Park and Officine Buona Forchetta (a partnership, now dissolved), the Milanese chefs’ projects have been higher-end dining experiences. The kind that bring big headlines and big expectations.
Ciccia is not that. Ciccia is two married chefs cooking in a little house.
“After all this time in the high-scale restaurants,” he explains, “we just wanted something unique. Most of these recipes are from my grandmother and Francesca’s grandmother. Many people say that, but this is for real.” Recipes like the Mafalde Ragu dell’Aia, a white farmhouse stew with chicken, rabbit, quail, and duck. The meats are roasted for hours, then braised to make a ragù.
“My grandparents didn’t have that much money after the war,” Cassineri says. “Rabbit was the only animal they had in the house. This was her dish.”
Up until now, Mario has been the chef. At BiCE, Francesca was the cheese master. At the time, her cheese case was one of the most extensive in San Diego. But for Ciccia, Francesca’s in the kitchen. Mario will bring the food and wine to tables, shake hands, entertain, talk to visitors of their little house.
“This is my wife’s idea,” says Mario, knowing how to not get divorced. “Ninety percent of the ideas here come from her. We tried to re-create the house of Francesca’s grandmother. One whole wall in the hallway is photos of her grandparents, and my grandparents.”
Ciccia is essentially a fast-casual Italian osteria (bistro). There are appetizers (mushroom flan with pecorino crust, prosciutto di Parma and pineapple with bee pollen, etc.), antipasti including a vegetarian option, salads (barley salad with quinoa, zucchini, almond, baked ricotta, cranberry-lemon dressing), housemade pasta (including a pasta boiled in red wine instead of water), and four entrées (spaghetti pomodoro, frutti di mare, etc.) and rotating desserts. They’ll have craft beer, a wine list that’s 95 percent Italian, and espresso drinks.
Customers will order at the counter. Mario will take care of the rest.
Take a look at the first photos of Ciccia below.
Ciccia Osteria is currently open Thursday through Monday. That may change, too.