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Perbacco, go there now!

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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!

Vitals:
Perbacco
230 California St.
(415) 955-0663
www.perbaccosf.com

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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.

            http://www.sfweekly.com/Issues/2006-1...

            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."

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                good article

            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
                  1. re: Emily Hope

                    Sample menus:

                    http://sanfrancisco.menupages.com/res...

                  2. Since it's Piedmont cuisine, do they do anything interesting with white truffles?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Baby Ruth

                      I don't recall any white-truffle dishes.

                      There are some Piemontese and Piemontese-influenced dishes, but there are also dishes from other regions of northern Italy, and some mroe or less Cal-Italian dishes.

                      1. re: Baby Ruth

                        I did not say Perbacco was (just and/or purely) Piedmont cuisine! I did say the food & wine at Perbacco has a strong Piedmont influence and it is the 1st restaurant I have come across in the US where that influence is so evident. I doubt you are likely to ever see veal marsala, saltimboca or parmignana on the menu at Perbacco!

                        1. re: DavidT

                          Yeah, it's definitely not your usual generic "northern Italian" menu. More like a northern counterpart of A16, though not as obsessively focused on doing things the Italian way.

                          1. re: DavidT

                            If you're looking for Piedmont / Ligurian in the US, head to Jackson, Wyoming and the Old Yellowstone Garage. Besides the outstanding food, the wine list is unbelievable! See my Elsewhere in America review for more:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                            Michael

                        2. I've been twice now for lunch. I work two doors down (lucky me - in between my office and Perbacco is Aqua!). I love the staff, they're extremely accomodating, if a bit green.

                          Both times I've had abbreviated meals. First time, 'Tarajin' - the handcut tagliatelle with 5 hour pork sugo and porcini mushrooms. The sauce melted in my mouth and the pasta was impeccibly fresh and cooked perfectly. Second time, the pappardelle with brasied short rib ragu (fabulous and succulent). I also ordered the brussels sprouts as a side - they are cooked to perfection and melt in your mouth. Seriously, even if you don't like brussels sporuts, try them. My dining partner had the grilled tuna with a tomato/pepper sauce and fingerling potatoes (it doesnt appear to be on the menu now, or else I'm completely misremembering the dish). The tuna was outstanding. Go. Now. Mangiare.

                          1. I am going to be in San Francisco over Christmas - would this restaurant work for a party of 6 on a week night. I guess I am actually asking about is it big enough and will it be really noisey - from the responses the food sounds amazing?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ptrefler

                              It's a huge place, no problem for a party of 6. It's not noisy compared with a lot of places. The part of the dining room under the mezzanine is quieter than the other part.

                            2. Big enough for a table of six? Sure. There is also a chef's table right by the kitchen that would be fun if you could get it; I think it's for eight. It can be pretty noisy, especially during the after-work hours when the bar is full. But it's worth it.

                              1. Here's another Perbacco question: anyone know where they source their meats? I notice that the menu offers the provenance of many vegetables (e.g. Marquita Farms Erbetta). This makes me think that if they were paying for sustainably raised meat they'd be mentioning it but there is nothing about the meat on the menu or the website.

                                1. Perbacco will be the featured Sunday restaruant review in the Chron on Jan. 7th. I tried the salumi plate, but need to go back and try a few entrees.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Paul H

                                    The short rib stracotto keeps coming to mind. Best pot roast ever.

                                  2. Just went last night and agree with the general consensus - Perbacco is great!! The food was all perfectly cooked (I'm now officially in love with fennel ice cream and pork al latte) and the service was amazing and smilely and friendly the whole night. I'd think it might be a bit heavy for lunch, but I'll definitely be back for dinner and I want to try out their private room that over looks the kitchen!

                                    1. Had a great experience here last night. The food was terrific, and our waiter (who I think mentioned to another table that it was his first night on the job) was attentive, nice, and full of information. For a new restaurant, service was remarkably smooth.

                                      We had:
                                      - Grilled shrimp and calamari salad with corona beans, arugula, and roasted tomatoes. Excellent; the shrimp especially was divine. This dish gives Delfina's white bean and calamari salad some competition.
                                      - Tajarin with pork sugo: thin-cut wheat noodles with a rich, piggy sauce, very tasty.
                                      - Pappardelle with short rib ragu and mushrooms -- winey, meaty, and excellent.
                                      - Roasted sea bass with artichokes (quite tasty, though the fish was slightly undercooked in the middle for my taste)
                                      - Side dishes of broccoli raab and Brussels sprouts (we liked both, but the latter were especially good).

                                      The only snag in service was a long delay between two courses, but our waiter cleverly came by to check on us twice, and on the second visit refilled our wine glasses to compensate us.

                                      We left well-fed and determined to return.

                                      1. Move over Incanto, there is a new sheriff in town!
                                        Had lunch there today and it was great. Service was very good, we literally didn't wait between courses. Food was delicious. The place looks nice. We are going to have to go back for those deserts. They looked very interesting but we were full.
                                        I was not impressed by Incanto. I found the service pretentious and the food just ok. Plus there was the outrageous service charge.
                                        So go to Perbacco instead. Prices are on the higher end but it's worth it.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ngardet

                                          Not that I've had that experience at Perbacco, but no wait between courses doesn't make for a very Italian meal.

                                        2. Had a great meal there tonight but not only was there no wait between our courses, it was obvious our main courses had been long since ready when brought out. The speed with which all our food was brought to the table was disconcerting! Our waitress was very pleasant but I would certainly circumvent this next time.
                                          Also, we sat upstairs next to an exceptionally cold, blowing vent that could not be turned off. The other tables around us were complaining about this as we did. Our food cooled immediately and I had to put my coat on after sitting a few minutes. There was no where to move us.

                                          1. Here is a copy/paste from my review of Perbacco:

                                            There is nothing quite as satisfying as a delicious meal after a long drive. When you start your vacation with hand held nodules of culinary blasphemy known as McGriddles, your next dining experience can only go one way, up. While driving up the beautiful and inspiring Pacific Coast Highway I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I spent a good amount of time surfing the web looking for a good place to eat upon our arrival in San Francisco.

                                            It actually wasn't a complicated process, as the top thread on Chowhound SF was entitled "Perbacco, go there now!." After checking in to our hotel, I made a reservation, albeit 30 minutes later than I was shooting for, at Perbacco. We caught a taxi to the barely three month old establishment on Cal and Front and were greeted with a warm handshake by the friendly host, who sat us in a comfortable corner booth.

                                            Our server, Franco, was cordial, charismatic and quite Italian and thus able to execute perfect pronunciation on each and every menu item, while both Penelope and I, speaking only Spanish and English, faked it as best we could. We started with a quarter liter of Sauvignon Blanc to compliment an order of Scallops Crudo, which were coated in olive oil intermixed with Meyer Lemon zest, sliced Serrano peppers and daikon sprouts.

                                            Our second course, accompanied by a half liter of Barbaresco, was a half-order or the Salumi Misti, which consisted of a delicious sextet of cured pork products including two varieties of salami, blogna, proscuitto, imported lonza and ciccioli, which basically makes me the worst Jew ever. The pork parade was presented with gherkins, crackers and breadsticks and was exceptionally delicious.

                                            For our next course we split a pear and endive salad, thick with a rich chestnut honey dressing, toasted hazelnuts and a pungent triangle of gorgonzola. I'm glad we ended up sharing the salad, as it was quite decadent, and perfectly proportioned when conveniently split by our server.

                                            For the main course, Penelope had the butternut squash Mezzelune and I had the Pork Shoulder. My entree was accompanied by the richest polenta ever, which much have had an entire stick of butter mixed in to the quarter cup of polenta on my plate, which defies probability, and most likely possibility, but nevertheless was a supersaturated polenta which could have been used to make rock butter.

                                            During our meal I couldn't help to notice that the family next to us seemed to be the most popular trio in the restaurant, and my suspicions where confirmed when I asked Marco if we were sitting next to the owner. I introduced myself and mentioned the good buzz going on Chowhound about his restaurant, to which he responded that Chowhound was too kind to them. I noted that we drove up from Los Angeles that day and heard about his establishment on the internet during our drive. His wife and daughter said there were from LA and I told them that we live in Downtown, a block from Skid Row, and they mentioned their aunt was a fan and supporter of the Downtown revival.

                                            After our meal we opted for the cheese plate, and allowed Marco to make our choices for us, within the constraints of 2 soft and 1 hard cheese. I failed to note the exact types of cheese we were presented with, but they were damn good, and we ate them up with the included bread, marconi almonds, raisins and honey. We washed the cheese down with a 20 year old Dow Tawny and a 27 year old Graham.

                                            Our meal was delicious, the atmosphere was warm and friendly and the service was excellent. Sitting next to and meeting the owner was a nice perk and we have added Perbacco to our list of establishments that will receive our repeat patronage on our next trip to the Bay.

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