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La Ciccia report

Armoise Mar 13, 2009 10:56 PM

Four friends and I had another wonderful meal at La Ciccia tonight. I wish I lived nearby to eat here more often. We shared all our dishes, staring with a special of fresh Monterey sardines cooked in white wine, served room temperature with a shaved fennel salad. An order of the Sardinian flatbread, crispy almost like pappadum with olive oil and pecorino. Clams and tiny squid in vermentino and parsley sauce from the regular menu. These dishes disappeared with a delicious Vermentino di Sardegna "Giunco" Azienda Agricola Mesa, particularly good with the sardines.

We opted for pasta and side dishes, the always wonderful spaghetti with bottarga, the tagliarini with shaved tuna heart which I will always order whenever it appears on the specials, the special of ravioli filled with ricotta and lemon zest with a vibrant fresh tasting tomato sauce ( how do they do this in winter?), and linguine with sole and capers in a savory tomato sauce. Every one was delicious and they each had an individual character and flavor that made tasting each one exciting. I never felt like, oh, more pasta. The veggie sides were a delicious sauteed cauliflower which we thought maybe included sage, and brussels sprouts sauteed with olive oil, salame and pancetta. With this we drank a delicious Sardinian red, the Cannonau-Caringano Bovale Isola dei Nuraghi "S'Arai" A Pala.

After this wonderful meal we shared just two desserts, blood orange sorbetto and the saffron cake with almonds and honey, which went perfectly with a tawny port.

I just love this place, the warmth of the welcome, the vibrant flavors, the lack of pretension or catering to trends. I was happy to see it was bustling with people waiting for the opportunity to savor the flavors and atmosphere. I hope it signifies what i believe to be so—the really good places will weather the ebb and flow of the economic tides.

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  1. Ruth Lafler RE: Armoise Mar 13, 2009 11:45 PM

    Great report!

    La Ciccia
    291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

    1. n
      NoeMan RE: Armoise Mar 14, 2009 07:09 AM

      Ouch, that hurts. This place is one my favorite sit at the bar and eat places in outer "if I can park" Noe, and last night when you went they were top of the list. I usually go there or Front Porch or Blue Plate or Zante or Henry's Hunan (previously Pescheria) or Clay Oven or Deep Sushi (no longer). But alas, the parking gods were against me and I picked up Chinese food and found a great spot to park in my garage !!!!

      Somehow La CIccia, particularly as you so eloquently described it, sounds like it might have been the better experience last night.

      1. Dave MP RE: Armoise Mar 14, 2009 08:24 AM

        Great report. I'm going to be moving away from San Francisco soon, and I'm glad I'll be eating here one more time this coming week! I'll report back as well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dave MP
          susancinsf RE: Dave MP Mar 14, 2009 09:05 AM

          oh Dave, that is really too bad; SF will miss your Chow reports!

          but as for me, I've already made the move away, but when I sneak into town for the weekend it is a good bet you'll find me at La Ciccia. :-)

        2. Ruth Lafler RE: Armoise Mar 14, 2009 09:17 AM

          BTW, in your last paragraph, you said: "I just love this place, the warmth of the welcome, the vibrant flavors, the lack of pretension or catering to trends."

          In my La Ciccia report almost two years ago, I said: "The owner's passion for the food shines in every dish, and every bite feels "true." Nothing is on the menu because it's trendy or might appeal to Michael Bauer."

          I'm glad that over a couple of years they've managed to maintain what makes it so special!

          1. Robert Lauriston RE: Armoise Mar 14, 2009 10:21 AM

            "I wish I lived nearby to eat here more often."--Last time I was there, an acquaintance sitting at the bar told me bikes down the hill to have dinner there three times a week.

            1. escargot3 RE: Armoise Apr 1, 2009 08:33 PM

              3 of us had a superb meal here. arrived early without reservations on a Sunday.
              Got seated graciously and enjoyed every single bite of each dish. Extremely innovative, and complex.

              2 Replies
              1. re: escargot3
                Robert Lauriston RE: escargot3 Apr 2, 2009 10:44 AM

                I'm not sure about innovative. Most of his food is quite traditional, just from a different regional tradition than most other Italian restaurants.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  escargot3 RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 3, 2009 06:38 PM

                  point well taken, robert!

              2. r
                rfmarotti RE: Armoise Apr 4, 2009 07:31 PM

                I feel like I have to speak up here to make sure I'm not crazy. I went to La Ciccia last week based on positive hound reports. I was disappointed. The space was cool, and the service was fine. However, the food, while relatively unique for the city, was not that great. A friend and I shared Clams and Calamari in Parsley Vermentino Sauce, and a salad to share. He ordered the margherita pizza, and I ordered the lentil-prosciutto soup and a baked cod dish. Everything, with the exception of the pizza and salad, was INCREDIBLY salty. The flavors did not stand out or pop. Everything just tasted like a salt shaker. Has anyone else had this experience?

                4 Replies
                1. re: rfmarotti
                  Robert Lauriston RE: rfmarotti Apr 5, 2009 10:39 AM

                  To me La Ciccia's food is properly seasoned compared with a lot of restaurants that undersalt.

                  1. re: rfmarotti
                    Calvinist RE: rfmarotti Apr 6, 2009 11:13 AM

                    To my taste La Ciccia's food is not overly salty. But I have a pretty high tolerance. The only place I've been to recently that did seem over the top salty was House of Prime Rib.

                    But on the night you were there, rfmarotti, it was clearly too much for your pleasure. Can't really say if it was a one-off that night or you if just prefer less salt than they season with.

                    1. re: rfmarotti
                      John Doe RE: rfmarotti Apr 6, 2010 12:46 PM

                      We have been to La Ciccia at least a half dozen times over the last several years and have found their dishes to be well balanced, flavorful, and carefully seasoned. It has been one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants for all the reasons people have stated.

                      However, during our last visit (several months ago), we noticed that 2 of the 4 dishes were a bit too salty. This was a surprise, since they had always been so balanced and careful with their seasoning. We thought maybe it was just a fluke, but it did leave us wondering/worried whether this was a new trend.

                      La Ciccia
                      291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                      1. re: rfmarotti
                        tvr172 RE: rfmarotti Apr 6, 2010 06:39 PM

                        I had the octopus stew this past Saturday and it was very salty. I had two other appetizers - calamari and grilled sardine which were both nicely prepared. To start, my wife had the fish soup which was fairly ordinary; for the main course, she had the lamb tenderloin which she liked. The service was good and they were accommodating with my having 3 appetizers as the meal.

                      2. Robert Lauriston RE: Armoise Apr 1, 2010 11:56 AM

                        One of the pigs from the special dinner last night (they had so many people on the waiting list for Monday's dinner that they added a second night). Mmm pork.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 1, 2010 12:35 PM

                          Drool ... I can hardly wait for the special pig dinners I'm sure will be coming to Locanda de Eva. ;-)

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            escargot3 RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 1, 2010 03:28 PM

                            double drool. thanks for posting the photo.

                            1. re: escargot3
                              grayelf RE: escargot3 Apr 6, 2010 10:10 PM

                              We had head cheese made from the leftovers of the special -- whoa Wilbur. And I don't even like head cheese. They are also now serving the shaved tuna heart over fregola, a spherical pasta, with ricotta and lemon zest. Words fail me. And olive oil gelato with bottarga -- WTF, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. (Much) more on this meal soon...

                              1. re: grayelf
                                mariacarmen RE: grayelf Apr 6, 2010 10:44 PM

                                WTF is right! Olive oil gelato with bottarga? the mind boggles! but . . . i can see it!

                                1. re: grayelf
                                  Robert Lauriston RE: grayelf Apr 7, 2010 08:36 AM

                                  Gelato with bottarga sounds like an Iron Chef dessert.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    grayelf RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 7, 2010 10:15 AM

                                    Mebbe. But damn good. Mullet, not tuna, BTW.

                                    1. re: grayelf
                                      Robert Lauriston RE: grayelf Apr 7, 2010 10:18 AM

                                      I can more easily imagine the shaved tuna heart as an ice cream topping, it reminds me of chocolate.

                            2. Steve R RE: Armoise Apr 14, 2010 08:24 AM

                              We flew in yesterday afternoon from NYC (well, Brooklyn, but let's not get too technical) and our first dinner in SF was here, due to this thread and others. As a CH poster almost since Leff started it, I've learned to research threads but take shortcuts as well, contacting 'hounds directly... so thanks for the advice Ruth. All roads led to La Ciccia.

                              We were still on NYC time so we jumped our 7:30pm Opentable reservation to 6:15pm and showed up expecting to find an empty place. Already half full, a good sign. Friendly staff from the owner to the wait staff to the bus boy made this a delight, a good escape from the sometimes too attitude-y places in NYC.

                              We ordered the flat bread and a bottle of Sardenian wine (not Cannonau, the name escapes me now). An '05 red reserva with earthiness & solid body, a good deal at $50. Plenty is available at all ranges from $30s to hundreds, another sign (in my opinion) of a restaurant interested in its customers. No upsell... just good honest "what do you like & how can I help?" interest.

                              Disclosure: we eat a lot. We started with fresh sardines with bread crumbs and olive oil and an order of baby octopus in a slightly spicy red sauce. Both were excellent... fresh and extremely well thought out and prepared. Substantial portions but not overwhelming. Next, we shared an order of the spaghetti w/bottarga... again, nice portion size & extremely well made. For mains (yes, still eating), Ginny had the lamb w/cabbage and I had the pork loin topped with an onion/saffron(?) mix & lentils on the side. Both were excellent, the lamb very fresh but not too lamb-y, no grease, cooked perfectly rare & the pork in cutlets, similarly well executed. These portions were extremely generous and, to be polite, we worked our way through both, leaving nothing behind. I think that a note about how good the cabbage was is in order here -- the raisins were plump, not too sweet and the dish was more than one would expect from a side. .

                              A couple of espressos and a comp'ed semolina/almond dessert w/honey (there goes the diet) ended the meal and we waddled back to the J to return to our hotel. The $100pp cost ($205 total all in, including the wine and tip.... a "normal" dinner could easily be half that amount) was, to us, a bargain and we're figuring out if we can make it back here before our vacation ends. In short (well, too late for that), this would be on our regular rotation at home and it's too bad that our 10 minute conversation with the owner, trying to convince him to relocate to Manhattan or Brooklyn, didnt seem to be successful. Nice place you got here!

                              La Ciccia
                              291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Steve R
                                Robert Lauriston RE: Steve R Apr 14, 2010 11:29 AM

                                The chef used to be a rep for one of the major Italian wine distributors around here, that helps explain the length and depth of the list relative to the size of the place. They have a lot of Sardinian wines I've never seen anywhere else.

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