I've been wanting to try Incanto for a while, and a birthday with visiting family was the perfect excuse. What can I say? We ooohd and aaahd and gushed over every bite. It was the perfect meal.
I started with the much acclaimed antipasto platter which deserves all the praise it gets and more. Pate, thinly sliced mortadella, coppa, salami, pickled vegetables and a sweet and spicy house made mustard. Everything was...indescribable. My little brother, who has had little exposure to fine charcut, was in heaven. As far as I'm concerned, this sets the standard for an antipasto platter.
Next came the gnocchi with sweet corn and wild mushrooms. I am always dumbfounded by a good gnocchi. How do they make so light yet so rich? Like a cloud with substance. I mopped up every last bite of the refreshing corn broth.
At this point in the meal, our table was overjoyed, yet the kitchen continued to top itself. My braised pork shoulder was perfect. Fork tender and still solid, with a flavor that can only be described as good pig. The reduction was not at all overdone, it was simple and complimentary. And the squash and unopened squash blossoms, oh! Perfect doneness, their flavor and texture held up to the rich pork.
After the more than generous entrees we were all stuffed, but dessert beckoned. Although all the desserts were good, the craime fraiche panna cotta was transcendent. I am constantly in search of a good panna cotta and this may be the best I have ever had. I liked that the texture was a little less firm than normal; as if on the point of melting while retaining a substantial mouthfeel. And the flavor was creamy and tart with just a little sweetness. I would BART into San Francisco just for this panna cotta.
After reading several negative comments on the service, I was amazed by how exemplary it was. Our server recited the pedigrees of peppers with passion, and translated Italian terms with ease. He was not condescending in the slightest bit. The pacing of courses was spot on. He was always available when needed. In short was the perfect balance between professional, family and psychic that one only expects from the best in the industry.
What most struck me about Incanto was the generosity. From the free reverse osmosis water, to the bimming bread basket with delicious breadsticks, to the enormous antipasto platter, to the generous entree sizes. They don't even shirk on dessesrt portions either. The quality of the ingredients is stellar; they feature the finest, freshest produce and meat available in the area. Yet my mother (who is not known for splurges) commented on how reasonable the prices were three times! That never happens. My stepfather said that his whole roasted petrole sole would have cost twice the price at a seafood house in LA. I don't know how they made any money off us, but as long as they're doing well I'm not going to question it.
Incanto is the rare restaurant that combines delicious food, amazing service and reasonable prices. If I lived in the neighborhood I would eat there three times a month. I will be back again and again and again. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I totally agree about Incanto. I was there 1 month ago and I'm already itching to go back. My gnocchi was served simply with tomatoes and basil. The pork shoulder was out of control good. I loved the perfect squash blossoms also. Try the hankerchief pasta with pork ragu next time.
It's gotta be my new favorite Italian in the city.
Hey, I've been wondering how your birthday dinner went...Glad you had such a great experience and that the antipasto platter lived up to your expectations. Gnocchi w/ corn and mushrooms also sounds amazing!
I too felt like the prices were very reasonable given the quality and portion sizes. Their portions are perfect for sharing (if you are willing), so if I lived in the neighborhood, I could see husband and I eating there fairly regularly.
I remember you were concerned about the noise level for your father. Was it ok?
I'm not much of a wine drinker but most reports indicate that Incanto's wine program is excellent, with many good wines available by the glass and good prices by the bottle. I'm sure that their wine steward will steer you towards something you enjoy.
It's worth noting here that our waiter showed no dismay or irritation over the fact that none of our party ordered anything to drink besides water. That's very rare in restaurants these days and it show real class.
Has anyone read Heat the new book by Bill Buford about Mario Batali? I am a young Foodie in training, are the foods he is describing like the food at places like Incanto, Quince, Delfina etc? It's funny, I love italian food, but I love Americanized italian food. The foods I've read about in this book scare me (as I think they do others too). But I am wondering how far off cuisine like this is from me in SF.
A16's the most hardcore about doing things just like they do in Italy. La Ciccia's pretty hardcore, too--but the chef's Italian.
Incanto, Oliveto, Pizzaiolo, and Dopo are more about using Italian philosophy and techniques in a California context, as if California were the 21st region of Italia. The feel is very much like eating in Italy even if no single dish is quite like anything you'd ever be served there.
Delfina's in that same vein but goes more American-style in its entrees. Actually Oliveto's been heading in that direction too, a bit.