Bice’s Service, California Style

Wine service at the outset at Bice was a disaster. You’d order a wine. The waiter would run into the kitchen to get it, and bring out a bottle that looked like what you ordered. Wrong wine, you might notice (or you might not). Diners grew irritated. Waiters grew weary.

Things have changed.

The original idea was to make the wine list at Bice identical to the lists in the chain’s other U.S. locations (Chicago and New York). “But we found out that sometimes the wholesalers couldn’t get all the wines we wanted,” said Paul Guzzardo, general manager of the Beverly Hills location. “And we found that the tastes of Californians might not warrant the same wine list.”

Enter the new list at Bice: It is unique and, other than a core of similar wines, has little to do with the Chicago and New York lists.


Heavily Italian in structure, Bice’s list now pays more attention to styles of wine Californians prefer, and pricing has been adjusted, downward in a couple of cases, upward in others.

Example: the 1982 Sangioveto from Badia a Coltibuono was $35 when the restaurant opened--though I ordered it then and the restaurant never had it in stock. Now it’s $45 and it’s in. At the opening, the 1981 Rubicon from the winery of Francis Ford Coppola was $75. Now it’s $50 (and a bargain at that).

There are a number of good values here, including the attractive 1985 Ceretto Barolo Zonchera at $35 and the 1985 Fontodi Chianti Classic at $22. There are fewer good values among the white wines, where pricing seems a little on the high side and the selection isn’t as creative.

This appears most evident in the California listing, where there are 14 wines, 13 of them Chardonnays, all but two of them priced $28 and over. The one Sauvignon Blanc on the list, 1989 Robert Pecota, is an attractive wine and priced fairly, $20.

More than anything else, however, the list does reflect what’s in stock. (Only one wine was out when I visited.)

Bice has also improved the wine ambience. There are now a total of seven wines offered by the glass--and a long list of grappas.