Curious about Cafe Niebaum Coppola
- Jeff Shore
I'm an LA resident who will be in SF on business frequently over the next few months. I'm also a big fan of Coppola -- movies and wines. Has anyone tried his restaurant? (I really love the fact that the wine list prices their bottles at about $2 or 3 above the cheapest price I've found them.)
I haven't tried the restaurant for a regular meal, but last January we had a staff party there on a sunday evening. The wines we tasted were good, but the food provided was horrible. We had passed hors d'oeuvres only, but they all tasted as if they'd been made the day before and reheated. Baked mussels were easily the worst mussels I've ever had.
That being said, I have no idea what their regular menu is like.
If you are a big fan of Coppola's then you will want to check this out. I see him there frequently. The Cafe is in the same building as his film company. (Hey he is a chowhound too, once I asked him about a mutually admired Japanese place in the nabe, now defunct, that had a tempura bar, where each piece was made to order, and they had a great spinach salad, he used to order two at a time).
This is a bit of an odd place. They have a retail operation selling wine, pasta, and sauces, olive oil and other products under his label. They also sell odds and ends like dishes he likes, with notes written by him. Oh and there are videos of his movies.
There is a wine-tasting bar that offers tastes like at the winery, 3 or 4 tastes and keep the glass for 7.50, I think. There is a long list of wines by the bottle, his as well as others, and you can just order a bottle to drink (or go), if you like.
There are mostly Italian waiters, clad in black pants and jackets with white aprons, range from friendly to irritating. One of them who is always there really bothers me because he has walked away from the table when I am in the middle of ordering to help someone else and other crap like that. Sometimes it is really hard to get their attention for a refill on your wine or something else. They often get really excited and congregate in the middle of the place wringing their hands, or rush about confused. Another guy is really sweet, always checking if I need anything, so it's kinds of a mixed bag on that end. I like it best when I'm not in a hurry, can sit at a sidewalk table on a nice day and just hang out. You really are free to just hang here they don't rush you at all. I know some people who sit around for a few hours and conduct a little casual business. There are only 6 or so tables inside, but I think the sidewalk is heated. Comfy chairs and cloth napkins too.
The have mostly simple food with good ingredients. The preparation have a rigorous austerity to them; few ingredients packing a good flavor wallop. They make their own fresh mozzarella, which comes with perfect ripe tomatoes in season. I like the sharp garlicky Cesar salad very much (a little inconsistent, though). It comes with a really nice warm soft yeasty bread. The spaghetti alla carbonara is very good, perfectly made, and my fav comfort food. I also like the pasta with sausage and chard. (I have had cravings for each of these items). There are some pizzas and calzones. They have interesting toppings like proscuitto and arugula. There is also a good muffeletta sandwich. They give you a good pour on the wines. I always feel as if it is a tiny over-priced but maybe not. I have been in a little while, because I got really sick of that waiter, but I can feel a craving coming on....
Thanks for the responses. I did eat dinner there on Tuesday night, and I enjoyed it very much.
More than anything else, it feels like a wonderful movie set, a delightfully too-perfect rendition for a Parisian cafe. (With Italian food. Whatever.) I was quite taken with the movie posters - for Jacques Tati films. Unexpected and fun.
I had only one dish and, although I am ashamed to say, I don't really know what it was. It was a business dinner and I was concentrating on, well, business. I ordered by asking for the best pasta and the waiter suggested, no surprise, the special. It was some kind of thick, dense, and chewy noodle baked with ground beef, proscuitto, and peas in a bechamel/tomato sauce, and topped with parmasean cheese. Good, basic, and very satisfying.