100 Wines set to open in building partially destroyed by fire in 2011
By Frank Sabatini Jr. | SDUN Reporter
The opening of 100 Wines restaurant marks a return to Hillcrest by the Cohn Restaurant Group, which, in 2009, moved its long-established Corvette Diner from Fifth Avenue into larger digs in Point Loma’s Liberty Station.
The company’s newest venture – opening Friday, Aug. 17 – is a wine-centric restaurant adorned with rustic memorabilia collected from rural Europe, and breathes new life into 1027 University Ave. after the space was partially destroyed by a fire in 2011 while housing Buonissimo2 Italian restaurant.
“When we heard that Buonissimo wasn’t going to reopen, it worked out great because we always wanted to find another spot in Hillcrest again,” said owner David Cohn, whose company operates more than a dozen other restaurants in San Diego County, from Downtown to Escondido.
“The other fun thing about 100 Wines is that we’re in a building with great history from the California Cuisine days, still owned by the same landlords,” he said. “They’re very excited about this project.”
The University Avenue building has undergone extensive repair, with the Cohn Group investing nearly $500,000 into the final remodel since taking over the space in April. The interior now features fresh plasterwork, limestone accent walls, wrought-iron chandeliers and a custom-built fireplace on the back patio. In addition, the structure’s façade received a chocolate-brown paintjob that will set the stage for a new sidewalk patio, slated to launch several weeks after the Aug. 17 opening.
The concept for 100 Wines draws from its original location in Maui, Hawaii, which Cohn opened earlier this year with Parisian designer Philippe Beltran. Their partnership extends to the Hillcrest location, where Beltran bestowed other details such as old, tin boxes and a unique display of farmers’ clothing from the 1930s that he brought from France. A wall of tarnished-metal wine cubbies and bare wood tables, set with placemats made from recycled newspaper, further exemplify the restaurant’s Old World focus.
Having employed a team of skilled workers in the remodel and design process, Beltran honors them with their first names handwritten on oxidized ceiling panels that mesh with plywood beams in the new space. About 10 percent of the fixtures throughout the restaurant were retained from Buonissimo2, including an antique radio and an Italian marble countertop utilized in the front dining section.
Maurice DiMarino, the sommelier at the Cohn Group’s Island Prime, is overseeing the new location’s wine program.
“Maurice is adventurous and has a credible palate,” Cohn said, adding that the global wine inventory is priced at $20, $30 or $40 a bottle. Categorized separately on large chalkboards, the selection spans from “friendly value” labels to “small production,” “romantic” and “special occasion” picks. Craft cocktails are also in the offing, constructed with spirits such as Spanish sherry, Italian grappa and French liqueurs.
A menu of Mediterranean-inspired fare created by Chef Katherine Humphus adheres to Cohn’s philosophy that “good wine bars should have good food,” he said. Humphus heads the Cohn Group’s Bo-beau Kitchen + Bar in Ocean Beach, where she has earned accolades for her shareable plates and boards.
At 100 Wines, she presents a similar repertoire of cured meats, house mozzarella, oven-fired pizzas, house-made pastas and full entrees such as pork osso bucco and phyllo-crusted sweetbreads.
Humphus is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and fulfilled an internship at the prestigious French Laundry in Napa. Prior to opening Bo-beau, she taught classes at Cohn Group’s Balboa Park Food & Wine School and helped open Cohn’s Analog nightspot in Downtown.
“The name 100 Wines suggests that we’re a wine bar, but it’s really a restaurant with a very good wine list,” Cohn said, citing that his most previous venture, Vintana Wine + Dine in Escondido, follows along the same lines.
After their initial opening, 100 wines will be participating in this year’s San Diego Restaurant Week, Sept. 16 – 21. For more information visit 100wineshillcrest.com or call 619-491-0100.