Ristorante Ideale in North Beach
Just ate there tonight - pretty good meal and the portions were huge!
A decent seafood salad with mussels, clams, tons of calamari, a few chunks of octopus, celery and shredded red cabbage. The combination and dressing were classic, the seafood was fine, but I would have preferred my calamari and octopus on the crunchy side, instead of being thoroughly boiled.
An very good duck entree - two legs of duck roasted with a large amount of fresh rosemary for a wonderful perfume, garnished with thick slices of decent roasted potatoes, oyster mushrooms and spinach and the whole affair drenched in a savory red wine sauce. Very rustic, very hefty, not for those who like precious tiny little entrees. Washed it down pleasantly with a glass of sangiovese that had plenty of fruit left even after the tasting the sauce.
A killer tiramisu that leans richly on the mascarpone. I'd love to hear if someone has had an equally good or better version; I'm always on the lookout for one that's more boozy and more espresso laden than usual, with more mascarpone than cake. This one comes close, at least on the mascarpone side of things.
The atmosphere is casual and the colorful decor is festively bright. There was live music from a guitarist/singer tonight (Thurs). As previously mentioned on this board, the folks that run it are Italian. I ate at the bar, chatting with the musician after he had sung - he's Italian too, and was intrigued/amused that I managed to get away with a few phrases of Italian (the only ones I knew) when I interacted with the waitstaff.
Lastly, while sitting at the bar, I noticed that the hostess ate there and got a plate of grilled assorted seafood that looked pretty good. It wasn't on the menu. Might have to inquire about that next time.
re: Melanie Wong
Funny that you should mention that - one of the patrons that walked in last night was a person I recognized as a waiter from Bella Trattoria Italiano on Geary and 3rd - an excellent neighborhood Italian place that is (IMHO) as good as, if not better that Ideale. Loved the cingiale/wild boar at Bella.
Ideale has been one of my favorite neighborhood italian restaurants for a long time, and i've always coveted it as a secret jewel. I had lived in Italy for few years, and ever since returning, had been largely unsatisfied with italian restaurants in san francisco. then i found italy at ideale. the chef, maurizio, does magic with simple ingredients. i especially love his homemade pastas, like the ravioli with lobster or gnocchi that seem to melt in my mouth. there's a new zucchini salad with truffle oil that is to die for if you are a truffle fan, like me. sometimes there is tuna sashimi there (make sure to always ask about he specials!), and the venison with blueberry sauce is the best i've ever had. don't tell too many people about it, though! i wouldn't want the genuine italian atmosphere, with all italian waiters and mostly italian clientele to change to much. that's part of what makes it so so special to me.
Gosh - that truffle talk just reminded me about the killer truffle sauce that I had in a pasta dish when I was in Assisi almost 2 years ago. I'm planning to hit France late this Fall - truffle season!
P.S. sorry about "spoiling" your secret - but I'm not to blame - I first heard about it from several posts on this board. :)