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Cotogna - Not Wowed

Scott M Jan 17, 2011 10:08 AM

I recently visited Cotogna for dinner and this morning saw that Bauer loved it in Sunday's paper. While good, I was not overly impresssed.

The space has a urban loft feel with large windows that look out on to Pacific Ave. There is exposed brick, tile floors, wood and steel about the dining area. It is an attactive space.

We were sat about 15-20 minutes late for our reservation and there is really no place to wait. Some diners are showing up early for their reservation and the doorway gets cramped with waiting diners.

The tables are rather close together, many tables are elbow to elbow and the hard surfaces throughout the restaurant make it very difficult to have a conversation. It was difficult to even hear the waitstaff describing dishes. I had to ask for descriptions to be repeated often.

The design is nice with the wood burning oven, the glassware and dinnerware are sleek but then they put paper placemats on the table with the word Cotogna on them, which I did not care to see. It felt cheap. I also did not care for the dish towel napkins, similar to Nopa. At Nopa they are fine the place is kind of funky, hip. At Cotogna I would prefer normal napkins. I get they are trying to have a rustic, casual feel but parts are very sleek and others just contrast as not refined (dish towels and paper place mats). Frances pulls this refined casual blend better without resorting to paper mats and dish towel napkins.

The front of house does a great job. Everyone from the hostess, floor managers, bussers and waitstaff is delightful.

The food is good but not great. The pastas are well done but I didn't find them any better than Perbacco, SPQR, etc.

The bread (offered by request) is a cold lackluster sliced baguette (possibly Acme).

Meats from the grill are also good but my pork was overcooked and a little dry on parts.

The desserts were fair, my crostata had a nice light flaky crust but there was very little fruit and it was mostly "crust"-tata.

Parking is a pain, unless you want to valet park.

All and all it was fine, but considering the tight quarters, loud dining room, difficulty parking and getting a reservation and the food wasn't better than what you can find at other well respected italian restaurants in SF I am not rushing back.

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Perbacco
230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Nopa
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

SPQR
1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

Cotogna
490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

  1. Scott M Jan 17, 2011 10:16 AM

    One other downside I meant to mention. Since the restaurant is popular you definitely get the sense they are trying to turn tables to meet the demand. While dishes did not come out on top of each other, once they picked up a dish the next course was out within minutes of the next. Also when the dropped off the dessert menus I had four people come over to ask if I was ready to order dessert within 5 minutes of getting the menu. The check was also dropped quickly, with the sense they wanted us to leave as soon as possible. Its loud, cramped and the seats aren't that comfortable so I wasn't in the mood to relax and dine, but there was a sense of move them in, get them out.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Scott M
      steve h. Jan 17, 2011 11:25 AM

      I group Cotogna with Barbacco, SPQR and Bar Crudo. Mid-price dining is a San Francisco specialty. All four of these places are wonderful examples of good food/wine/beer (Bar Crudo) at very approachable price points. They are all a bit loud and cramped yet very friendly. They are also very popular. I highly recommend all four.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/753660

      1. re: steve h.
        osho Jan 17, 2011 03:25 PM

        I was not wowed either. I had the duck at lunch a couple of weeks ago - along with some spinach sformata and halibut tartare. It was nice but nothing special that I would rave about it. Certainly not like the *esteemed* MB did recently.

        IMHO, Barbacco and Bar Crudo are head and shoulders above the other two.

        -----
        Bar Crudo
        655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

        Barbacco
        230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        1. re: osho
          steve h. Jan 17, 2011 03:36 PM

          MB gets special treatment and that's a simple fact. Still, I stand by my comments about the four restaurants. They are wonderful stops at approachable price points. Further, I can usually pop in without a reservation if I time things right.

          1. re: steve h.
            JasmineG Jan 17, 2011 10:05 PM

            For those last three, maybe you can pop in without a reservation (especially Bar Crudo and Barbacco), but not Cotogna, it's been booked solid lately, and I'm sure it's going to be even more packed since Bauer's rave.

            -----
            Bar Crudo
            655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

            Barbacco
            230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            Cotogna
            490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. re: JasmineG
              steve h. Jan 18, 2011 11:39 AM

              Deb and I walked in mid-December. As you can see from my post at the time, it was clear that the days of "just popping in" were numbered.

              Here's a link:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/753660

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