Great meal at Ristobar (SF, Marina)
On Sunday night I went to Ristobar, the place the owners of Rulli opened in place of Gran Caffe Rulli on Chestnut in the city. Both of us were pretty much stunned by the quality of the food. We had a salad (not on the online menu and can't remember the name) but the flavors were so fresh you'd think they just picked everything.; a pasta dish (also not on the online menu), large flat pasta with pork and wonderful flavor; bietole al forno (oven roasted beets, melted fontina cheese) that was stunning; another vegetable dish that I can't remember enough about except that we both loved it. These are relatively small plates priced from $5-$15. We had four of them (didn't have a "FISH, POULTRY & MEAT" course) and we had enough food without overeating. The wine list is all Italian and the very helpful young waitress brought a few samples. Both of us remarked that we didn't see how food could be much better.
2300 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Finally made it in here last month. I was nearby and needed a small bite at 9:30pm. Ducking inside to see if it might be possible to be seated at that hour, I found a full house on a Thursday night. Chef Auriana was darting in and out of the kitchen during my time there. I ordered two dishes, plus a small taste of wine.
Imported Italian mortadella, escarole, radicchio, wild arugula, honey crisp apples, and pumpkin seed salad, $10. Very lightly dressed and very fresh bitter greens that were shredded to be easy to eat, nice balance of bright acidity to contrast with the sweetness of the juicy apple slices, and more mortadella than I expected to see at this price.
Lombard pizza, $10 - Tomato, fior di latte, basil, and oregano, served on a wood board. Cut into 8 rectangular slices, the paper-thin crust drooped down completely in the middle sections and the topping slid off when I tried to pick up a middle slice. While the center was soggy, the rim of the crust was very crackly and almost flakey. Nice scorching, high-toned sauce and more salt than any recent pizza. The oregano in addition to basil made this more assertive in aroma. Besides the dripping wet center, the only other ding would be that the cheese was sliced so thinly it looked unappetizingly curdled and toughened up. But this was a tasty, if small, pizza.
The upskirt of the pizza was nicely mottled with scorch marks.
The wine taste was 2009 di Giovanna “Gerbino” Nerello Mascalese rosé made from organically grown grapes. Whenever I see nerello mascalese on a list, I order it, but this was my first encounter with a pink one. Very saturated color, big floral perfume, full-bodied and intense with many layers of exotic fruits, this wine drinks more like a red. Quite different than the very pale whispers of rosé that I usually favor, yet I liked this one very much. I asked the hostess whether Ristobar had retained Rulli’s retail license because I wanted to buy a bottle of this to take home. She sent the sommelier over and he priced it at $20 (vs. $30 on the wine list) for retail purchase.
My server was a total flake bringing me one wrong dish and never checking back. But I had a great busser, who I had to ask to send my waiter over two different times and who kept an eye on my needs. The hostess also went out of her way after she was already off shift to find my waiter again to run my tab. The somm answered my questions about the wine. So other than the waiter, everyone else did a good job even at the end of a busy night.
Thanks for the report on Ristobar. Chef Angelo Auriana made the reputation of Santa Monica's Valentino's and there was much mourning when he left, yet he hasn't seemed to have gained a following in San Francisco. I will admit that with the new, more casual format here, I'm more inclined to give it a try.