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Friday, July 15, 2005 | It is rare in this town to bring your own wine to a restaurant and not be charged a corkage fee. On a tip from a wine rep, I found Rafaela’s Italian Restaurant where “bring your own” (or BYO) is de rigueur – they don’t sell any alcohol and tables are set with wine glasses and an opener. Started two years ago by former nursery school teacher Donna Reed, the funky yet homey Pacific Beach eatery, named for chef Jorge Garcia’s mom, was packed one Thursday evening.

When Reed took it over, it was a tiny building with the kitchen in the back used for catering. Now seating spills outside in semi-covered patios with outdoor heaters, plastic furniture and green outdoor carpet.

We had the shrimp scampi that had perfectly cooked medium shrimp, zucchini and pasta in a garlic pesto. The menu says pesto but it wasn’t the thick basil, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan sauce – regardless, it was very tasty at a reasonable $11.50. There are pizzas, salads, sandwiches and a host of pastas. Complimentary dessert is a small slice of cheesecake. Reed’s servers are practical in their recycling efforts – water from cleared tables is tossed into the gorgeous flowerbeds that surround the building and patio. Rafaela’s Italian Restaurant, 5119 Cass St., in Pacific Beach, (858) 272-0466; Rafaela’s opens in Serra Mesa about Sept. 1 at 3232 Greyling Drive, in Serra Mesa. Dinner only.

Del Mar residents with Adelphia Cable TV (Channel 66) can sit down with a glass of wine on Thursdays at 5 p.m. to watch Dining! Del Mar. The new half-hour show features a peek into the kitchens of Del Mar’s finer dining establishments such as Poseidon, L’Auberge’s J. Taylors and Arterra. Hosted and produced by Del Mar Village resident and personal chef Jamie Danielle, the show also features Del Mar Times wine columnist Andy Abramson. While Danielle educates viewers about the chefs’ culinary skills and the atmosphere of local establishments, wine critic Abramson pairs wines with every course and selects a wine of the month in each episode. Together, the dining duo provides witty commentary and humorous insights about each restaurant, and the people behind them. For more information, visit

This week begins the occasional section called Pet Peeve wherein restaurant pet peeves observed while eating out will be duly noted. First on my list: Servers who clear plates before everyone has finished eating. Gemelli’s Italian Grill service, while attentive, had this irritating pet peeve, and they aren’t alone in this glitch of good service. If you have a pet peeve with restaurants, I would love to know about it. Please e-mail me at

Marcie Rothman loves good food – no matter where it’s cooked – at home, a hole in the wall or a white tablecloth restaurant. Known as The $5 Chef on radio, television and in her two cookbooks, Marcie travels far and near with an eye on what’s current in food. You can find her at

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