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Apr 10, 2008 10:38 AM

How did we like Delfina?

Very much. A lovely evening which illustrates one of my 'great meal' theories - it's as much about who you dine with as it is what you eat. Mike and I were invited out by an "in-the-know" young couple who were able to get us in with a day's notice. Perhaps someone with weeks to anticipate dining at a trendy hot-spot might wonder at all the hype, but I found Delfina to be a rock-solid Italian bistro with great takes on rustic Tuscan classics. Loud but not distracting, crowded but not cramped. Waitstaff great - friendly and helpful, never intrusive.

We started with grilled calamari - not flashy but perfectly seasoned. The speck and artichoke appetizer was simple and tasty as well. But my absolute favorite was the Ribollita Delfina - a clever updating of what is usually a thick bread soup. This version was bread cooked down with rich broth and seasonings into a small brown disk - crispy and brown outside and moist and savory within. It's like the best Thanksgiving stuffing you ever had made into a pancake. I guess this item is not always on the menu but we lucked out. We were also gifted the mantecato, a whipped salt cod spread with flatbread, which I was eager to try. Not my favorite version, however; a bit stringy and fishy to my taste.

I chose the Tripe alla Fiorentina for my entree and was not disappointed. I love a place that serves tripe - it just can't be that popular - and mine was rich and saucy and full of tripe flavor, bubbling hot with crispy bread crumbs on top. To their credit my fellow diners (except Mike) sampled it and pronounced it good - brave souls. Of course that entitled me to try their pasta: tagliatelle with duck giblets (not bad but my bite was a bit liver-y), bucatini with fava beans (really good - I'd order that), and a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce that was pitch perfect - a credit to the kitchen. Hugs all around!

At dessert the panna cotta was a creamy revelation. And how nice that they publish the daily menu on their website so I could get the spellings right.

So where should we go next?

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  1. I was there last night as well and ate many of the same things you did...all good. If you like the vibe of Delfina, try Range - similar service and great food...

    842 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

    1. Thanks for the report - I hope the bucatini with the fava beans is on the menu tonight!

      If you like Delfina, I'd suggest Zuni, Range, Incanto, Bar Bambino, Piccino, La Ciccia, A16, Delfina Pizzeria, Gialina and Foreign Cinema. That should keep you busy for a while!

      Delfina Restaurant
      3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      1. Their Trippa alla Fiorentina and ribollita are great. I'm not a Range fan, the food is well prepared though not exciting. You might try Bar Tartine or Nopa.

        1. Delfina's popular but I wouldn't call it trendy. They've been doing pretty much the same classic rustic Italian stuff for almost ten years.

          1. Delfina's panna cotta, a revelation? But, but, but... there's buttermilk in it! Panna=cream, not buttermilk. Personally, I found their panna cotta actively bad (rather than just inoffensive, like most of the rest of the meal we had there).

            As suggested below, if you actually want Italian food (rather than what Delfina serves), I'd strongly recommend La Ciccia. They serve truly wonderful and *authentic* Sardinian food.