Those of us who aren’t able to catch a red-eye to northern Italy any time soon have long been able to get our pasta fix at Little Italy’s Bencotto and its brother concept Monello. We’ve ordered the cheese wheel pasta and watched as ribbons of tagliatelle played double-dutch on a 60-pound wheel of parmigiano reggiano.
The parm-reg and restaurants will remain, but the owners—husband-and-wife Valentina Di Pietro and Guido Nistri, who brought some Milan-style modernity to the neighborhood when they first opened Bencotto in 2010—are packing up and moving back to Italy. They’ve left both concepts in the hands of GBOD Hospitality Group, which is not-so-quietly becoming a significant part of the city’s restaurant scene with Mezé, El Chingon, Prohibition, Havana 1920, Las Tres Catrinas, and now the twin Italian spots.
“We like picking businesses that are already successful, then we add our signature flair,” says Joe Santos, COO of GBOD, noting that Bencotto and Monello’s beloved Romano-born chef Fabrizio Cavallini will be staying on. “We want the transition to be as seamless as possible.”
GBOD was founded in 2012 with the launch of Mezé Greek Fusion. Pairing Greek fare with belly dancers and ambient lighting proved successful in a neighborhood saturated with nightclubs and hookah lounges. GBOD added the 1920s underground speakeasy Prohibition to its portfolio in 2017 and opened the bustling, boozy El Chingon later in the year. The group is operated by brothers Raymond and Patrick Davoudi, who started out in French kitchens before they found promise in the front of the house.
Nistri, Di Pietro, Cavallini, and Patrick Daniels opened Bencotto in architect Jonathan Segal’s Q Building at a time when Little Italy had its deep-rooted red sauce restaurants, but lacked modern concepts. Monello popped up next door two years later. Floor-to-ceiling glass surrounds modern, sleek, dual-level interiors where San Diegans acclimated themselves with over a dozen varieties of housemade pasta.
GBOD will resume where the last order for cheese wheel pasta left off—all part of their plan to run the business as usual, making subtle changes when necessary. Although the team is yet to announce any enhancements in either space, Raymond teases that diners can expect more after-dinner vibes down the road, even if it’s something as straightforward as dimming the lighting.
“Our entire team is ecstatic, especially with Fabrizio continuing to oversee the kitchens,” he says.
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