Meet the Team


Mario Cassineri

Executive Chef, Partner

With more than 25 years of culinary experience, Chef Mario Cassineri uses his natural and refined talent to create authentic and innovative Italian cuisine at BiCE Ristorante, located in the heart of the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. Cassineri serves as Executive Chef and Partner of the restaurant, and was born and raised in Milan, Italy. He infuses each flavorful dish at BiCE with a taste of cultural flare and deep Italian tradition. Driven by a desire to both delight his guests as well as put a modern spin on contemporary dishes, Chef Mario credits his success in the kitchen to two defining attributes: palate and passion. The latter is shown not only in the meals he creates, but also in his amiable and electric personality that fills BiCE’s dining room nightly with positive energy.

Chef Mario discovered his love of cooking at just 15 years old while helping prepare food for a charity event. It was then that he realized his culinary creations had the power to bring smiles to the faces of hungry people. Chef Mario went on to graduate from culinary school in Milan, and work with a variety of renowned chefs in Italy and around the world. It wasn’t long before he was running his own kitchen, landing his first chef position at the young age of 23 years old. Mario later went on to join three of Italy’s most celebrated chefs to create a successful restaurant and hotel consulting business. He also shared his love of food with others by teaching culinary arts at the internationally renowned culinary school Costigliole d’ Asti in Piedmont, Italy.

Chef Mario joined BiCE Restaurant Group as Executive Corporate Chef in 2005, opening several restaurants internationally and in the United States with his longtime Sous Chef and friend Francesca Penoncelli. Both Mario and Francesca found a home at BiCE San Diego, where Chef Mario has taken the helm of the kitchen and runs the restaurant with an expert team. Here, Chef Mario remains inspired by a community of appreciative diners and enjoys implementing natural and fresh ingredients into a skillful mix of contemporary Italian dishes. One of his proudest accomplishments has been traveling to New York City with Chef Francesca to cook at the legendary James Beard Kitchen on behalf of BiCE San Diego. More recently, he had the honor of leading BiCE to win the 2014 Gold Medallion award for “Best Italian Fine Dining” from the California Restaurant Association. When not in the kitchen, Chef Mario enjoys giving back to the community by participating in charity events and fundraisers, particularly ones that benefit childhood and cancer related charities.



Francesca Penoncelli

Chef de Cuisine/Pastry Chef

A seasoned chef with a contagiously positive demeanor, Chef Francesca Penoncelli spreads joy through her beautifully crafted Italian cuisine at BiCE Ristorante, located in the heart of San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp Quarter. Chef Francesca is a critical piece of the BiCE team, serving as both sous and pastry chef of the renowned Italian restaurant.

Chef Francesca’s inspiration comes from a deep-rooted passion for food, a result of an Italian upbringing filled with warm memories of family dinners, picking fruit and vegetables from her grandmother’s garden and foraging for mushrooms and berries with her grandfather. Chef Francesca began working in the kitchen when she was just 14-years-old during holiday breaks from school, where she quickly picked up the basic skills she would later perfect during five years at culinary school in Piedmont, Italy.

After finishing culinary school, Chef Francesca went on to work in kitchens around the world, flourishing as a chef while embracing other cultures in France, South Korea, Lebanon, Dubai and throughout the United States. Now at BiCE Ristorante in San Diego, Chef Francesca has gained a following as the mastermind behind the restaurant’s Italian imported cheese bar and remarkable dessert menu. In the BiCE kitchen, Chef Francesca works closely with Chef Mario Cassineri, longtime friend and partner, to create fresh and flavorful dishes incorporating homemade pasta, sauces and more. Adding to her list of culinary accomplishments, Chef Francesca is also a certified Neapolitan Pizza maker by the American Delegation of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana.

Since joining the BiCE San Diego team, Chef Francesca has had the honor of cooking at the James Beard Kitchen in New York City with Chef Mario. She also received the “Best Vegetarian Dish” honor at the 2013 Chef of Fest awards at the San Diego Bay Food & Wine Festival, and helped lead the restaurant to win the 2014 Gold Medallion award for “Best Italian Fine Dining” from the California Restaurant Association. When not crafting outstanding cheese plates, homemade pasta or delectable desserts, Chef Francesca enjoys traveling—her greatest passion second to cooking. In 2011, she took a five-month hiatus from BiCE to volunteer in Peru, accomplishing a life long dream of giving back while traveling.