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How does Perbacco compare to Incanto?

  • m

I'm interested in how people compare the food (not the ambiance) at these places.

Also, other than the agnoletti dal Plin and fritto misto, are there other not-to-miss dishes at Perbacco?

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  1. I've wondered the exact same thing. They menu and philosphy appears very similar. Robert prefers Incanto (surprise!).


    1. I love the food at Perbacco, and nobody braises better, but Incanto's a step up in terms of quality of ingredients and execution--particularly as regards the pastas.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Really? You think Perbacco braises better than Incanto's braised/roasted pork shoulder? If so, it may be time to try Perbacco...

      2. Almost to close to call, I vote for Perbacco.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ngardet

          I wasn't asking which one is better per se, but what's different about them?

          1. re: Maya

            I think Incanto's dishes are generally more labor-intensive.

        2. i cannot stress enough how superior perbacco is to incanto.

          i had a very disappointing meal at incanto a few years ago and have no interest whatsoever in going back. however, a work lunch at perbacco was stunning and delicious.

          i'd prefer incanto's more intimate ambiance over perbacco's power-business-lunch-sleek-pretty schtick, but the food at the latter is just so damn good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bittermelon125

            If you haven't been to Incanto in a few years, that might have been the old chef.

            If you haven't tried the the antipasto platter, handkerchief pasta with pork ragu, braised pork, and panna cotta, you should give it another shot.

          2. I found Perbacco very underwhelming. The pork shoulder was good and that's it. Same with the angolotti. The testa was FABULOUS, but it was the only thing that was fabulous. I have a friend who works in the kitchen there, and I do know that the dishes are incredibly labor intensive, but only that one (the testa) really knocked my socks off. Incanto, in my opinion, isn't all that great either. I think they do a few dishes really well (Ragu, yummmmm) but overall I think he is too ambitous for his abilities. So, I guess they are even. I know I'll get flamed for that, but that's my two cents.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Manimal

              Wow, that's certainly not been my experience. I've been there about a dozen times, and I can think of a few dishes that *didn't* knock my socks off, but the rest certainly did. The dozen people I've taken there seemed to love it too.

              It's also the only restaurant where I make a point of having dessert (I'm not much for sweets, but theirs are just too delicious).

              But to each his own! Not a flame, just an observation.

              BTW, I had lunch there yesterday and had a fantastic duck liver ravioli dish. Amazing.

            2. Incanto, Perbacco, La Ciccia, Oliveto, Antica Trattoria, and Delfina differ in significant ways, but to me the food is fairly similar--classic rustic Italian moderately adapted to California ingredients.

              1. I've been to both and enjoyed both. BUT...Incanto wins every time. Their salumi is better, their service is better (although nobody seems to be having any fun whatsoever), and their pasta is better. I thinks Incanto is more serious about the food and Perbacco is more interested in being a beautiful place.

                2 Replies
                1. re: srr

                  I completely disagree. I had absolutely lovely service at Perbacco, and have had service issues every time I've been to Incanto, (and downright attitude on one occaison) which is probably the main reason that I've almost given up on it. Then again, I haven't always been crazy about the food at Incanto either, where I have had a few misses. No misses at Perbacco yet, but haven't been there as often as I've been to Incanto. .Personally, based on my experience I'd say both restaurants are serious about the food.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Perbacco's great but nothing I've had there was as exciting as some of the simple raw vegetable appetizers and offal dishes I've had at Incanto. I think Incanto's smaller scale, shorter hours, and tighter focus give the chef an advantage.

                    Though it's just a matter of degree. Anybody who's into serious Italian food should try both.

                2. This is maybe going to sound silly, but which of these would better suit a student budget? I need a place to take my girlfriend that is a step up in terms of ambiance from china village, our usual haunt in the EB. Is the difference in price appreciable at either?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: throatboat

                    Delfina is a better choice for a student budget.

                    1. re: Windy

                      Thanks! I've been trucking around the websites of these various restos. We'll see what happens. I'm really tempted to give incanto a call though...

                    2. I went with my boyfriend to Incanto last year on a fairly limited budget--I think we had two appetizers, split a pasta, and split a main. For our appetites, it was enough food. Of course, wine will add a lot to your bill if you have a bottle. As far as atmosphere (if that factors in for you) the times I've been to Incanto it has been a noticeably older crowd than Delfina.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pane

                        For what it's worth, I find the food at Incanto exciting but hit and miss (see my recent post). The hits are exceptional, but you need to order the right things, which means ordering enough to explore. This rarely costs less than $60 per person; you could do well at Delfina for $40, especially if you skipped main courses.

                        Also not everyone is up for goat and tongue and odd grasses. I wouldn't skip dessert or wines by the glass.

                      2. That's really helpful. My girlfriend said that she's been to dopo a few times, but I haven't, so we may in fact end up there. Any suggestions from their menu?

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: throatboat

                          The appetizers are usually my favorite. There are usually only three and we get them all. Pastas are great too.

                          1. re: throatboat

                            I absolutely love the pastas at Dopo. Every time I've ordered pasta there I'm blown away by how good they are.

                            1. re: throatboat

                              Don't order the pizza (it's good, just not the best offering.)

                              I usually get one or two things from the crudo and the pate selections (the chicken liver mousse is divine). The antipasti are usually the best things on the menu, and the pasta is excellent. The lasagne is always delicious.

                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                I really like the spicy broccoli or cauliflower pizza, but Pizzaiolo's better for pizza.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I live close to Pizzaiolo... a fave. My dad used to make killer napolitana pizza on weekends (I suppose he still does) and it's comforting to eat it once in a while. I've always been too chicken to try it at home myself, but my kitchen is small anyway.

                                  Also, I've read a few reviews that mention Dopo's pastas being overly reheated? have you ever found that to be true?

                                  1. re: throatboat

                                    You mean like baking the lasagne until it was dried out? No so far, always been perfect.

                            2. It's been a ridiculous week of chow--Slanted Door on Monday, Canteen on Wednesday, and finally--Perbacco last night. Incanto is in my top five dining experiences in SF, so I was eager to see how it compared.

                              For two people, we ordered the frito misto, agnolotti, butternut squash ravioli, and pork shoulder. The pork shoulder was stunning--as good as the same dish at Incanto, and just the right portion size. I liked both the agnolotti and ravioli very much, but if I had to choose one pasta dish to eat right before I die, it would be Incanto's handkerchief pasta.

                              Prices were similar to Incanto. With all the dishes noted above and one glass of wine, our tab was about $65 before tip. A good value.

                              As far as atmosphere, I like Incanto more than Perbacco. It's more of a neighborhood preference for me--I spend enough time with FiDi banker-types at work, I prefer more warmth and intimacy after 5 p.m. Bittermelon called Perbacco "slick"--sounds about right to me.

                              I tend to be a more adventurous eater than my guests, but I also prefer to share, so in the future I would want to return with someone who would also be enthusiastic about the testa, salt cod, etc. My friends won't even try the salumi platter at Incanto, which saddens me greatly. You can absolutely take more traditional/picky eaters to either restaurant and they can find an uncontroversial but delicious pasta dish.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: pane

                                My feeling is that Robert has a special relationship w/Incanto that is unusual. See his love letter in SF weekly. I have nothing that luxurious, and can be frank in my opinions. Incanto has balls. Big hairy chewy balls.
                                Depends on what you like...
                                Perbacco is testing & we will see if they have balls & of what stripe they are.

                                I think Robert is focusing on offal and other "unusual edgy" kitchen performance. Definitely Chris Costantino(sp?) has that.

                                Is it good for 70% of the folks who want a good dinner? I don’t know. Perbacco is far more accessible to that 70% in my opinion. Nice, non-threatening food.

                                1. re: mmerino

                                  I love Incanto because it reminds me of my favorite restaurants in Italy. Offal is a minor part of that.

                                  I love most kinds of offal, but more often than not at Incanto I don't order any, since my wife won't touch liver, kidney, or blood, and isn't keen on tripe, intestine, spleen, tongue, sweetbreads, or testicles (which in my experience they always shave or defeather before serving).


                                  Perbacco's chef Staffan Terje is into offal. The current dinner menu include honeycomb tripe and warm pig's head terrine.

                                  1. re: mmerino

                                    I've been to Incanto four times now, and I can say without hesitation that it's my favorite restaurant in the city. I like that it takes me outside of my comfort zones, and allows me to try new dishes that I never knew I loved. The cod roe salad, for example, is something that I would normally never order, but the incredible, simple, flavor of the sea is still with me. The venison carpaccio with foie gras I had last week was incredible.

                                    That said, I feel that Incanto is very accessible to the less adventerous diner. Antipasto platter, pork ragu, vegetarian ravioli, and whole fish are not exactly edgy dishes. I took my parents there last year, they stuck to the more conservative dishes and they loved it (they're still talking about it). I also sent a friend there for his birthday last week - he went with his rather unadventerous family of seven and everyone adored it.

                                    I'm rather fortunate that Mrs. Mousse and I have basically identical taste in food, so we can always share everything.

                                  2. re: pane

                                    If you were looking for the fun factor in these three places (Inc, Del, Per), which would be your pick? The menus look great at all three and Delfina was on my list when I was in SF 3+ years ago (from Boston). But I remember it being pretty small when I walked by and I can't tell what Incanto is like from their web site. I'm always looking for a nice bar and lively atmosphere (and amazing pastas which seem to be easy to find at these places). Taking that into consideration, would you pick Perbacco? Thanks.

                                    1. re: Joanie

                                      We've had 3 outstanding dinners at Perbacco, one with out of town guests who just loved the place. Also had a great business lunch there. Service, food, wine, all outsanding.

                                      1. re: Joanie

                                        Delfina's the liveliest of the three. It's larger than it was when it first opened.

                                        Perbacco is often crowded and loud, but when I look in the window the bar's often 100% downtown business-suit types. Not my idea of fun.

                                        Pesce's more fun and lively than any of those three. Pizzaiolo in Oakland's good for that too.

                                    2. you might need some new friends :)

                                      1. My mom took me out for a belated birthday lunch at Perbacco yesterday...we were in a sharing mood and split the grilled squid, salumi plate, burrata and the gnocchi. The three appetizers and one pasta were more than enough food for two and everything we had was fantastic!
                                        Oh, we also had the trio of gelato for dessert which we managed to polish off despite claiming to be full. We both liked the nice little touches-breadsticks to start, bread brought out a little later, cookies with coffee and the gelato.
                                        I can't wait to return to Perbacco for dinner.

                                        1. The worst service i have ever had was at Perbacco. I don't know if it was because we were sitting in the front bar section but it was terrible. We didn't even receive two of the dishes we ordered and they were on the bill. Awkward server and very unprofessional. The food was hit or miss. Incanto on the other hand was great all around service and food, especially the curred meats...

                                          1. Had a birthday lunch last week at Perbacco as well and had a mixed experience. I think we were immediately pegged as tourists and seated at a far corner table upstairs. The waitress did not know the food that well, the busboy was freindlier, less forced and more knowledgeble about the menu. My mother ordered the Pear, Endive, and Hazelnut Salad with chestnut honey dressing and a wedge of Gorgonzola cheese. The pear and greens were of the best quality, but the dressing had a wierd musty flavor that we both found unpleasant. When we asked about the dressing the waitress said it was a "White Vinaigrette". When we complained about the flavor she lectured us on the meaning of the word Perbacco (something like "wow" in Italian) and how the restaurant tries to surprise folks with new flavors. No effort was made to replace the salad or comp us. The pastas were delicious, especially the pork sugo and agnolotti but did not arrive hot, and a better server might have steered my mother away ordering two dishes that had alot of the same ingredients (the salad and gnocchi both had hazlenuts and gorgonzola cheese). We left with a bad taste in our mouths and not just from the off flavors of the salad!

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Xilonem

                                              That strange musty / earthy / woodsy quality is the chestnut honey. I love it with gorgonzola but for some people it's either an acquired taste or just plain nasty.

                                              A more attentive server might have warned you about that, but you did get what you ordered.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                A more attentive server would have brought them the pasta while it was hot.

                                              2. re: Xilonem

                                                There is no excuse for lecturing you, regardless of whether the server could have been more attentive or not. I love Perbacco, but still, I would consider sending an email or letter to the management to tell them of your experience. I don't think they would want their name to be associated with that type of lecture!

                                              3. After one visit to Perbacco I'll give my vote to Incanto, but still give Perbacco another few chances. Food was generally good, service was off, my panna cotta was flawed: it tasted like corn starch, which leads me to think they used corn starch instead of gelatin and didn't cook it enough to remove the raw starch flavor. There was also far too much thickener, because instead of barely standing up the panna cotta was positively solid and I could see every last groove, crease, and dimple that the mold had imprinted on the panna cotta. It was billed as a pistachio panna cotta, so perhaps somehow the combination of cream and pistachio flour tastes starchy, but the flavor wasn't one I associate with pistachios in nut or gelato form. Incanto knows now to make panna cotta, which collapses deliciously onto your spoon as you scoop it up and doesn’t hide the flavor of the cream. To give credit where credit is due, the waiter noticed I ate the nice citrus marmelade/sauce but little of the panna cota and offered a cookie with my espresso when I tried to decline any exchange or fix for the panna cotta. Espresso was acceptable but not particularly good. Olivetto makes a good espresso.

                                                As others have said, cured meats at Incanto just come together better. I liked my pork liver mortadella well enough at Perbacco, but it didn't make me sit up and take notice. Similarly, I liked my pasta well enough at Perbacco, but it came out a bit less than hot, the lamb was good but I could tell there wasn't a rich stock used in the sauce, the peas were fine but overcooked and could have used some acid in the cooking water, etc. We’ve fought over pasta at Incanto because it was so good and there certainly wasn't any similar urge at Perbacco.

                                                Still, prices were low on food for the quality and portions, and this place has real potential. Food was probably better when they opened up and the chef wasn't exhausted. It will probably be back up to snuff in another few months after the new restaurant-chasing crowds move on and the chef finds his rhythm.

                                                I know chowhounds don't care, but I found the room upstairs really uninteresting. It was so noisy that I looked around to see what the hard surfaces were, and it was just plain painted walls and ceiling with oddly spaced light fixtures that weren't directed at tables. A few small curtains did what they could to absorb sound, but that's about it. Considering that food has to go a bit further to get upstairs and it didn't seem any quieter, I'll try to eat downstairs in the future. On the plus side the tables were well spaced upstairs.

                                                1. Ate at Incanto for the first time last night - it definitely wins for my favorite Italian restaurant in the Bay Area. It may even be my new favorite restaurant in the Bay Area, period.

                                                  I went with two friends and split 3 apps, 2 pastas, and 2 entrees amongst ourselves, effectively creating a 7 course tasting menu. Conversation actually ground to a halt three times because the food was so good - once for the finanziera of cockscombs, duck tongues and rice, once for the porchetta di testa, and once for the pasta with the cured tuna heart and raw egg.

                                                  The remaining dishes were all excellent as well (the raw artichoke salad, the mint malfatti with lamb, the octopus, and the braised lamb neck). If I'm going to nitpick, I'd say that the beans in the octopus dish could have been cooked a little longer - they were still a bit starchy. And that is literally the only criticism I have for the food last night.

                                                  I thought that Perbacco was ok - the two standouts in my memory were the brussel sprouts and the caramel gelato - I've had two superior versions of the agnolotti dal plin elsewhere this year (Quince, and L'Impero in NYC) so I wasn't blown away by Perbacco's. I haven't had a chance to try Perbacco's braised meat yet, but I have a hard time imagining a braised meat that tastes better than the lamb neck I had last night. And like most people, I infinitely prefer the surroundings at Incanto.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: daveena

                                                    They had the finanziera on the regular menu? You lucked out big time.

                                                    I like the side downstairs dining room at Perbacco.