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Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Día de Pesca MexSífood Taqueria, Gao Viet Kitchen & Bar, Fiore Caffè

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Check, Please! Bay Area, season 18, episode 8, airs Thursday, September 28, at 7:30 pm, on KQED 9. See other television airtimes, and never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

First up, a funky San Jose spot featuring flavorful fish tacos, succulent shrimp and squid cocktails and flair galore. Día de Pesca MexSífood Taqueria, a former food stand turned tropical taqueria, specializes in simply prepared Mexican favorites with a seasonal selection of fish and seafood. Then, in downtown San Mateo, Gao Viet Kitchen & Bar whips up Vietnamese feasts in abundance, from its signature Phozilla – a massive bowl of show-stopping pho stuffed with Maine lobster, filet mignon, brisket, oxtail and other decadent toppings – to more familiar fare. At Gao Viet, the richer the broth and the bigger the bowl, the better the experience – especially if it’s shared. Finally, at Fiore Caffè, a cozy corner café in San Francisco’s bustling Mission District, discover classic homemade Neapolitan and contemporary Southern Italian fare served in a charming restored Victorian.

Check, Please! Bay Area host Leslie Sbrocco joins three local guests on set to discuss local restaurants.
Host Leslie Sbrocco joins guests Derek Wong, Gabriel Chaparro and Eugenia Arbol from KQED in San Francisco.

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Host Leslie Sbrocco sipping wine
Host Leslie Sbrocco sipping wine (Courtesy of Leslie Sbrocco)

My name is Leslie Sbrocco, and I’m the host of Check, Please! Bay Area. Each week, I’ll share my tasting notes about the wine, beer and spirits the guests and I drank on set during the taping of the show.

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2020 Lombardi ‘Martaella Vineyard’ Chardonnay
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California $56
As a Chardonnay lover, I gravitate towards versions that highlight purity, complexity, and finesse. Great wines of France’s Burgundy region have defined that style, but it’s not the only place to find world class Chardonnay. California’s cool coastal regions produce some of the best. I’ve discovered a wine I put into the highest quality Chardonnay category. Lombardi Wines began with the pure passion of Christine and Tony Lombardi in 2013. Their 2020 Martaella comes from a very special vineyard and shows its pedigree. The wine is sleek and appealing with floral aromas and citrus-zest freshness. Its kiss of oak character blends beautifully with the abundance of fruit notes. This Chardonnay is elegance in a bottle.

2021 Robert Biale ‘Black Chicken’ Zinfandel
Napa Valley, California $55
When it comes to drinking Napa history, sipping a glass of Biale Black Chicken is the way to go. In 1937 Pietro Biale planted Zinfandel vines among the vegetables, other grapes, and chickens he was growing and raising on the family farm. When tragedy struck and Peitro left a widow and son, the family’s grit and hard work allowed them to survive and eventually thrive. When young Aldo (Robert Biale’s father) began making wine to supplement the family income, he sold the jugs of Zin to friends through a party line phone. To keep things quiet, he took orders for the hearty red wine by calling it “Black Chicken.” Today, the wine is one of Napa Valley’s iconic reds. Lush and spicy with deep color and dark fruit flavors, this Zin is a class act.

2022 Balletto Gewurztraminer
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California $25
From vegetable farmers to grape growers, the Balletto family is rooted in the land. They have a rich history dating back four decades from growing vegetables to eventually planting vineyards. With a wide range of wines to explore, Balletto’s portfolio ranges from bubbly to pink wines, whites to reds and even a dessert sipper. I chose to highlight the lesser-known white, Gewurztraminer. Not widely planted in California, it’s a secret delight to drink. Aromas of peach and pear, a hint of nuttiness and ginger spice make this crisp and vibrant Gewurztraminer a joy to drink. It’s the perfect pour with sushi, spicy calamari, or grilled endive salad.

Thirsty for more beverage advice? You can find more of my wine, beer and spirits tips for you here.

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