It’s a delicious story about two Italians who met in San Diego and found a way to work together to open up two amazing restaurants. The love story starts in 1998 when Valentina Di Pietro was still earning her doctorate and started working as a server at Guido Nistri’s restaurant. After a couple of years, they fell in love and eloped to New York City. They decided to split their time between New York and Milan. Valentina worked in fashion PR and Guido opened and managed a few restaurants. But in 2009 the two decided they missed San Diego and in February 2010 they opened the very successful Bencotto, which was inspired by their experience in both Milan and New York. Despite all the competition that Bencotto has in Little Italy, they continue to do well and in 2012 opened up Monello right next door. It’s also an amazing Italian restaurant and offers alternative options to Bencotto.
Q: How do you set yourself apart with all the other Italian restaurants in Little Italy?
Guido: We are ambassadors of Milan and its culture of food, design, fashion and finance. We make 100 percent of our menu in house. We serve dishes that are hard to find in other Italian restaurants thus being rigorously faithful to our tradition.
Q: Describe your perfect date in San Diego.
Guido: Nothing fancy. Simple pleasures. Late afternoon bike ride at the beach, predinner glass of Prosecco before going out, and dinner at one different restaurant each week. We only go see independent movies at Landmark theater when possible.
Q: What’s the thing you love to cook when you both are at home and why?
Valentina: Guido is the cook of the family. Favorite dish: Monello homemade spaghetti with bottarga. We love seafood and in Italy bottarga is very popular.
Q: Biggest thing you two always fight about?
Valentina: How to deal with negative responses either from guests, reviews and sometimes internal issues. Negative energy indeed creates negative energy. But we are both good negotiators and know when it is time to say sorry.
Q: What’s the perfect recipe for a successful restaurant?
Guido: The ingredients to a successful restaurant is to be present and know your guests by name and faces; do only what you know best regardless of culinary and cultural trends; create leaders in your staff with passion.
Q: Best part about doing business in San Diego?
Guido: It is a city that is growing at its own pace and therefore being so young, there are a lot of opportunities.
Q: The dish you think Americans are crazy for loving?
Valentina: Any kind of fast food. But this applies to all people around the world, not just the US.
Q: Advice for couples just starting a business together?
Valentina and Guido: Respect and rely on each other’s expertise. Keep calm and work hard. Plan time off without talking about business. Not even for one second!
Amber Mesker is an entertainment and lifestyle reporter for DiscoverSD. She loves providing readers updates on Hollywood gossip, San Diego fashion and cool weekend events. You can follow Amber and laugh at her fun, crazy life at @ambermesker