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Incanto dinner review

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My Ukrainian friend and I had dinner tonight at Incanto, based on (mostly) positive reviews on this board. Admittedly our focus was more on catching up with each other than on the food, which was pleasant although in my view not amazing. We had reservations for 19:30 and were greeted warmly and seated immediately. Service throughout was friendly and professional. Here's what we had (we shared everything family-style:

Piedmont flight of wines--unfortunately I didn't write down the names of each, but this was the flight recommended to us once we picked the braised pork shoulder for our main course

House-cured sardines with fennel and radish--plump sardines and a citrus-olive oil vinaigrette, a nice start. My friend also enjoyed it, though she thought the overall taste sensation, particularly with the radish, was reminiscent of a Ukrainian dish.

Sicilian lamb spleen bruschetta with Caciocacvalla & salsa picante--lamb spleen had great taste and texture, but this was a tiny dish for $9.5--just one bruschetta! Overall I would say apps are not good value here-I would expect them to be priced ~30% less for the portion size.

Braised pork shoulder with brussel sprouts, crabapples and smoked pancetta--this had been recommended in prior postings and deservedly so, this was my favorite dish of the evening. Again, not revolutionary but simply and expertly prepared, meat so tender that the guy at the table next to us asked what the dish was so they could order it too. Have never been a huge fan of brussel sprouts and would have preferred sweet potato or chard, but the crabapples were a nice sweet-tart counterpoint to the rich meat. Also good value--we're glad we shared this instead of getting two entrees.

Lemon thyme buttermilk panna cotta with ruby grapefruit--I went ahead and ordered this since it got such rave reviews, even though I never order panna cotta. Fortunately my Ukrainian friend loved it and happily devoured most of it--for me, it confirmed that I simply don't care for panna cotta, no matter how excellent a specimen it is. So if you're a panna cotta fan, by all means order it, but if you're not it probably won't change your mind.

Bottom line: I think this is a great place for Italian wine/rustic food aficionados, and an enjoyable place for everyone else. I fall in the latter camp, so the place didn't floor me, and I'll likely spend more time ferreting out great Vietnamese/dim sum/breakfast/dessert places in the city since I tend to be more passionate about these foods. But Incanto was definitely worth a visit.

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  1. I agree with you. I thought Incanto was nice overall, with well prepared dishes, friendly service, and a nice, cozy ambience. It wasn't the best I've ever had, but I would definitely consider it a neighborhood gem that I will visit again.

    1. For Vietnamese, try the new Vanessa's bistro in Berkeley on Solano
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...