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Nov 14, 2006 07:02 AM

Perbacco, go there now!

We just got home from dinner at the new restaurant, Perbacco. It's at 230 California St. between Front and Battery (next to Tadich, two doors from Aqua).

We ordered the Salumi Misti which consisted of house-made finocchiona, Salmae al barbera, coppa piccante and ciccioli (pork pate) as well as imported mortadella di bologna and prosciutto di san daniele. It was cured meat heaven. The house-made salumi had a softer, more lush texture than any I've had, and the flavors were amazing. I've never tasted finocchioni that had such a lovely fennel flavor, not overwhelming but a perfect accent. I will make a trip here just to have a glass of wine and the salumi plate over and over again.

The most ordinary thing we ordered was a beet salad garnished with crumbled castelmagno and ruccola. It was perfect, but just the simple thing described. Compared to everything else, perfect just wasn't exciting.

The pastas were transcendent. We had agnolotti dal plin: squares of house-made pasta filled with roasted veal in a simple butter sauce with braised cabbage and garnished with grated parm. The pasta had perfect texture, and the richness of the veal filling was balanced with the cabbage on the plate. The other pasta we shared consited of ravioli filled with red chard and ricotta in another simple butter sauce wtih crushed walnuts. The balance was unreal with flavors of chard melting with walnuts and ricotta wrapped in (again!) perfect pasta.

We were so satisfied that we skipped dessert in favor of a cheese course that consisted of a couple of big hunks of well aged parmesan and castelmagno (we had plenty of red wine left to finish). The cheeses were served with chesnut flower honey (delicious, if not a match with the wine), marcona almonds and local moscato grapes.

Honestly, the only regret that I had was that we didn't walk in with bigger appetites. I LOVE Delfina, but right now feel like I could forget all about it and not regret.

Go to Perbacco now. Talk to the sommelier, Mauro, about wine. Order as much as you can. Salute!

230 California St.
(415) 955-0663

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly! I had dinner there on Friday and thought the food was divine. We split an order of fritto misto (shrimp, green and wax beans, and fennel with lemon aioli) that was light and crisply and altogether delicious. Then we had butternut squash mezzelune with sage, brown butter, and castelmagno cheese, which was good enough but a bit sweet and bland, and pansotti (a Ligurian type of stuffed pasta) with chard, ricotta, herbs, and walnut butter, which was fantastic. We both followed that up with pan roasted chicken with Meyer lemon pan juices and broccoli with anchovy garlic butter. The chicken was succulent and had a crispy skin, and the pan juices and broccoli were a perfect accompaniment. For dessert we had a trio of gelati (the caramel one was possibly the best gelato I've ever eaten in the US), and a chocolate tart thing that was served with caramel and whipped cream. Only potential embarrassment stopped me from licking the plate. I can't wait to go back.

    The room is very warm (visually, not temperature-wise) and beautifully lit--it's hard to believe it's the same space as the old Gold Coast.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MorganSF

      Just echoing your opinion on the caramel gelato - the caramel (sprinkled with black salt, absolutely insanely delicious) and the pistachio are by far the best gelato I've had in the US. Ultra creamy, pure flavors (the pistachio had an intensity I've never tasted before - it tasted a lot like pistachio macarons I've made, from pulverized fresh pistachios - but there were no discernible nut pieces! How'd they do that?) I'm dying to see what they'll do in summer, with fruit.

      1. re: daveena

        In Italy, the pistachio ice cream has a very intense flavor. The top-quality natural extract or whatever is reportedly 3-4X as expensive as most other flavors.

        1. re: daveena

          When I had the gelati that first time (I've been there about 10-12 times now), the flavors were espresso, chocolate, and caramel, but I believe they've changed the espresso one to pistachio. I too am dying to see what they will do in the summer!

      2. Anyone else been here lately? Reviews? Am interested in hearing about the atmosphere... is it more for business lunches or could it be a fun trendy night out type dinner place?

        1. The name of the place reminds me way too much of the Simpsons episode where they combine tomatoes and tobacco to make TOMACCO.

          Now I can't get it out of my head even though the food sounds divine.

          3 Replies
          1. re: katya

            It means "by Bacchus," roughly equivalent to our "by Jove!"

            I reviewed it for SF Weekly, liked it enough to eat there on my own dime since, and plan to again.


            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Robert, I like your review--a very accurate description of the place. I've been there three times already and am looking forward to another visit very soon. I've brought a different friend there every time, and they've all loved it too.

              One delight I discovered last night is the "Rosmarino" cocktail, which tastes like very grown-up lemonade. Absolutely delicious, and this is coming from someone who usually can't stand anything sweeter than a martini.

              Funmarysf, the atmosphere is buzzy and fun, but not obnoxiously loud. From Robert's review:

              "Don't let the often intimidatingly well-groomed, Armani-suited crowd at the bar scare you off — there are plenty of schlubby S.F. foodies in wrinkled Dockers in the back."

            2. I had lunch with a friend at Perbacco today. It is the first restaurant I have come across in the US that is strongly influenced by the food and wine of the Piemonte region of Italy (Turin, Alba, Asti, etc.).

              The Piemontese pastas available include Agnolotti, Pansotti & Tajarin. Several meat entrees and pasta sauces feature pork or beef stewed or braised, a common practice in the Piemonte. The wine list offers 2 Barberas, a Dolcetto and 2 Nebbiolo's (wines from the Piedmont) available by the glass, the 1/4 or 1/2 liter. The cheese list includes Castelmagno and Toma, 2 cheeses from Piemonte.

              You will not find much tomato sauce or garlic at Perbacco! In fact, you will hardly find any.

              I sampled the grilled squid & bean salad, the tajarin (an eggy fettuccine-like pasta) with pork sugo and the pappardelle with short rib ragu. All were delicious.

              Desert included a scoop of a remarkable fennel-flavored ice cream.

              A meal at Perbacco should definitely broaden one's horizons of the range of the regional cuisines of Italy.

              4 Replies
              1. re: DavidT

                Do they make pansotti in Piemonte? I know them as a Ligurian specialty. A Cote in Oakland's the only other place I've had them locally.

                Perbacco's got some Venetian dishes as well.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  You are correct. Carluccio's Complete Italian Food defines pansoti as a "stuffed pasta, typical of Liguria."

                  In my defense, 1) I did not say that Perbacco was a Piemontese restaurant, just that the food & wine have a strong Piemontese influence and 2) Liguria is adjacent to Piemonte.

                  By the way, the thin grissino (breadsticks) offered at the begining of the meal with a green dipping are delicious and common to the Piemonte. The green sauce, also common to the Piemonte, is delicious as well.

                  1. re: DavidT

                    I should add that there are some who consider the cuisine of the Piemonte to be the best regional food in Italy and among the very best anywhere in Europe!

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Pansotti are Ligurian. My aunts used to make them. I guess Perbacco is Piemontese-Ligurian-Venetian!

                    The menu is printed daily and I have noticed some changes in my visits. I imagine it will change more radically as the seasons do.

                2. Wow, this sounds so fantastic that I may be tempted to venture downtown for dinner, for once. What's the price range?

                  1 Reply