Gaslamp's Bice closing today

Bice, the popular, elegant Italian restaurant in the Gaslamp is closing today.

Partner and executive chef Mario Cassineri attributed the closure - dinner service tonight will be its last - to lower demand and higher costs.

"Unfortunately, fine dining does not have the draw it once had," Cassineri said in a statement. "This reality, combined with unforgiving leases and the rising cost of labor, brought us to a very difficult decision."

Word of Bice's demise began to circulate in January when Cushman & Wakefield, the landlord of the space at Fourth and Island advertised it as being up for rent. At the time, Cassineri told the Union-Tribune that Bice's lease had gone to month-to-month.

The restaurant was known for its refined, authentic Italian cuisine, particularly in the hands of chef de cuisine and pastry chef Francesca Penoncelli. Among Bice's highlights was its cheese bar with its vast array of Italian cheeses, salumi options and accouterments. The eatery garnered critical raves and a loyal following from the day it opened nine years ago.

Cassineri remains the chef/partner of Officine Buona Forchetta, in Liberty Station.

Here's Cassineri's full statement on the closing of Bice:

"To all our friends and family:

For the past 9 years, we have strived to bring our guests unique and amazing dining experiences. Opening BICE was big for all involved. It brought life to the once vacant corner of 4th and Island, and served as special place to gather with friends. We could have never imagined BICE would become what it did, and mean so much to so many. We set out to bring people together and serve amazing food in a beautiful space where everyone felt welcomed. To us, it was a complete success.

Unfortunately, fine dining does not have the draw it once had. This reality, combined with unforgiving leases and the rising cost of labor, brought us to a very difficult decision. We are simply unable to continue to provide our guests with the dining experience BICE was created to provide. Because of that, our last day of service will be tonight.

To our loyal and incredible staff who made up the BICE family, we wouldn't have been successful all these years if it weren't for you. Our guests consistently returned because of your warm, caring service and dedication to BICE. We thank you for making BICE a special place to be.

To the many purveyors and guests who have become close friends over the years, we are forever grateful to you. We sincerely thank you for all your years of continued patronage and support. Without you, the last nine years would not have been filled with the happiness and laughter that made us keep going. This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult decisions we've ever made, but it has become an unfortunate reality for many in our industry. We hope we have given you as many joyful memories as you have given us, and look forward to breaking bread with you all soon.

Addio per ora, or goodbye for now.

Mario Cassineri and the BICE family"
michele.parente@sduniontribune.comTwitter: @sdeditgirl

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