JJL's dinner at La Ciccia
May I just rave a little about La Ciccia?
My friends and I had the most fantastic meal at La Ciccia tonight. We had the special burrata appetizer as well as the baby octopus stew appetizer. The burrata was so rich in flavor and the texture was so creamy yet with a little chew. The octopus were some of the most tender I've ever had and the tomato stew it was cooked in was so hearty and full. Great way to begin the meal.
We got three pasta dishes: spaghetti with bottarga, a special fresh linguini with squid ink and mixed seafood, and the malloreddus with pork ragu. They were spectacular, each one. I have had a lot of great Italian food in New York and this definitely equals, if not surpasses anything I've had there and definitely comes very close to the food I had while in Italy. The spaghetti was cooked to the perfect point of al dente and the bottarga's brininess was fantastic yet Massimo was able to also draw out the creaminess at the same time. The special squid ink linguini was so sensuous and full and such a great contrast to the bottarga pasta. The sauce looked almost sludgy and the only thing I have seen that looks like that is the Korean noodle dish - jja jang myun. I normally don't like meat sauces, but the malloreddus with pork sugo was just amazing. The pasta was once again cooked perfectly and the flavor of the sauce was rich and created a velvety and luxurious mouthfeel, yet without overpowering and it let the pasta shine through. Just wonderful.
We also shared the lamb with sapa main course which was cooked a nice medium rare. One of the center pieces was a little too rare, but I'd rather that than the other way around.
We also got the selection of gelati: fig, olive oil, and something with raisins. They also sent out the semifreddo with almonds and quince sapa on the house and that was REALLY delicious.
All in all a FANTASTIC dinner. I loved it so much that I am considering bringing my colleagues and our host/benefactor back here for our special dinner. Am I crazy to repeat? Is a meal at Aziza likely to equally blow me away or should I bring my colleagues back here? What do you think, Chowhounds??? Thank you for such a great recommendation!
Thanks, Ruth and daveena, for your thoughts. I definitely think they would "get" the simplicity and rusticity of La Ciccia. I really think they would love it. I would also LOVE to return because I loved it THAT much! However, as this is a trip that will end at some point, I was wondering if I could chance one of my last meals in SF on Aziza in that it would offer the same kind of eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-your-head delicious food that La Ciccia did. Since it would be probably my last meal in SF, I am thinking, "Go with what I know will be amazing?" or "Try a new place and maybe it will be as amazing or maybe not." I know you were worried about ambiance - I peeked into Aziza today and both La Ciccia and Aziza's ambiance are just fine. The cocktails and menu aren't a big concern. It's mainly about the deliciousness of the food and if Aziza will deliver in the same way La Ciccia did. Thanks so much!
Gotcha. Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but my own experience with Aziza was that it was good, but it didn't resonate with me the way that La Ciccia does. Aziza is more refined, which many people may consider a positive, but I think it lacks the gutsy soulfulness that La Ciccia has. Again, I haven't been in a while, and don't know if there have been significant changes.
I understand the compulsion to go back a second time too - I did the same a few years ago in NYC, to Degustation - I think when you come out of a meal like that, and you keep thinking about, you should just roll with that instinct. In any case, I think you've kind of already decided :)
And when you go back, even if there is no cured tuna heart dish on the menu, ask them if they can make it for you - I've had it off menu before,
<triumphant fist pump>
So glad you loved the meal. Ruth does bring up a lot of good points about whether or not it would be a better place than Aziza for your special meal, though, and Aziza does represent a style that I don't think is found in NYC. I haven't been there in a while (and I'm holding a grudge against them because the popularity of their beef cheek dish means I can no longer buy beef cheeks from the Prather Ranch stand at my local farmer's market) but I think I've heard that the food is getting more polished and experimental (anyone who's been lately please feel free to jump in and correct me if I'm wrong). It's definitely flashier, and the cocktails are excellent.
That's a tough call, not knowing your colleagues and host/benefactor. Are they going to "get" the simplicity, rusticity and neighborhoody qualities of La Ciccia, or are they going to be looking for something a little more sophisticated like Aziza, with its fancy cocktails and more exotic menu? Also, how many people are you taking? As you saw, La Ciccia is not very big, and I'd be hesitant to take a party of more than four there.