Upon entering the East Village's Double Standard Kitchenetta & Craft Bar, you may notice that nothing seems to necessarily match, yet at the same time it all perfectly syncs together. To the left, floor-to-ceiling windows take up two walls and a vintage-industrial style decorates the space with exposed beams and bricks (a décor that many eateries are using these days). Yet, on the right, a distinct ‘60s-mod theme takes over with crisp lines, retro furniture, and a bookshelf that holds a variety of authors and vinyl thrown together in an organized clutter.
Designed and conceptualized by David Mainiero, Double Standard—which opened on December 1 last year—is meant to be eclectic, to showcase an unmatched balance. For the food, this means serving fine dining fare in a casually-cool environment that reflects the whole San Diego-chill vibe. We recently visited on a Friday night and were surprised by the restaurant’s homey-yet-chic feel. We were eager to learn more about its concept and its food.
Behind its dishes is 24-year-old Chef Chris Gentile, whose boyish smile immediately makes you consider what you were doing at his age (we’re guessing it didn’t involve running an entire kitchen). Having been in San Diego for five years, Chef Gentile has already made his way through some of San Diego’s best restaurants in his eight years of professional cooking. “I was the Executive Chef at Brian Malarkey’s Gabardine for about two years, about four years ago. After I was there, I took some time and worked with some of the best chefs in the city,” shared Chef Gentile. “I worked at Nine-Ten and Kitchen 1540, and kind of worked up the ranks there.”
From bruschetta and flat breads to cheese boards and pastas, the menu is distinctly Italian and will also change seasonally. Most dishes are served small, not fully tapas-style, but perfect for mixing and matching and sharing with your companion. In speaking with Chef Gentile, he shared that he not only brings his fine dining background to Double Standard but also his heritage and expertise when it comes to fresh, homemade pastas.
“Originally they weren’t making any pastas in house, and I have seven journals full of recipes, all my own. I know every type of pasta, I’ve done it all over the place,” said Chef Gentile. “Now I’m making everything here with one KitchenAid mixer.” With just one mixer, his pastas are definitely a standout. A favorite of the night was the House Made Agnolotti with Laura Chenel goat cheese, English peas, prosciutto, white truffle oil and bacon dust.
What is also noticeable about chef’s dishes is the lightness of his sauces and dressings—which typically err on the heavier side at most Italian restaurants. But at a place like this, where trying multiple dishes is part of the experience, it’s nice to be able to enjoy a variety of plates without feeling as though you’ve already overeaten.
Another dish that impressed us during the evening was the Center Cut Wood Oven Roasted Filet with Italian truffle sauce, fire roasted cauliflower and (deliciously satisfying) pomme dauphines. The cauliflower is served three ways: roasted, pickled and pureed, and we loved each and every flavor. It’s easy to taste the passion behind these dishes and you get a sense of Chef Gentile’s dedication to his craft.
“I’m Italian so I grew up eating a lot of these dishes such as the chicken dish, it’s very simple. My mom would put the oven very low, cut up potatoes and onions, and then pour chicken broth in and add chicken,” regaled Chef Gentile. “[She would then] put it in the oven for like six hours. I’m trying to recreate that flavor, cook the chicken from scratch; the potatoes are par-roasted with onions and we’re importing oregano from Sicily to get that really unique flavor. That dish, every time I eat it I think about my parents.”
And, as this is San Diego (and home to some of the best craft breweries in the nation), Double Standard’s bar menu is well stocked with small-batch- and micro-brews. Paired with their beers, their selection of wines also highlight obscure and highly-rated boutique wines. Although they do offer craft cocktails, there’s a sense that their beer and wine take center stage. If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic beverage, they offer Puck’s hand-compounded craft sodas made from cane sugar.
If Double Standard continues to make delicious Italian dishes with a San Diego flare, this could become a favorite among locals and visitors. If you visit, make it a point to notice all the little nuances and details that are incorporated into the restaurant’s décor and concept—you won’t be sorry.