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Last Night at Perbacco [San Francisco]


Last night was the first night I've ever been there where it was not completely packed. It was mostly full, just not 'packed'. Also, it was already my favorite restaurant -- all things, including price, considered -- in San Francisco, but last night was the best meal there I've had yet. I had the risotto with porcini, corn, smoked pancetta, and caramelized onions as my appetizer and the veal chop with roasted baby turnips, roasted a strange type of whole onion, and fresh dandelion greens with a terrific balsamic reduction and amazing EVOO for my main course. Dessert was my standard -- the burnt caramel gelato. Just a remarkable dinner. I hope they are doing ok in business... but wow, what a dinner...

230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

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  1. Until a dinner a couple of weeks ago, our only experience at Perbacco had been for the special Passover dinners they've done with Joyce Goldstein. Those dinners were very good, but can't serve as a test of the customary menu, service, etc. When we did visit for a "real" dinner recently, we were extremely pleased and impressed with the whole experience--service, food, and wine.

    230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

    1. Glad to hear about your lovely meal there. It's one of my fave restos in SF.

      1. Ditto. I find myself at Barbacco more often just because it's easier to drop in and the price point is slightly lower, but Perbacco remains one of my favorite restaurants in SF. The stuffed quail is exceptional.

        230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        1. It's been a couple years since I had dinner at Perbacco, but I've lunched there frequently and recently. Still a tough reservation for tables during lunch primetime (i.e. before 1PM), unless you're making a reservation several days out. Always either packed or close to it every time I've been there, invariably eliciting comments from my clients or vendors of "what recession?"

          230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

          1. I have to think they are doing ok - my colleagues and I travel to San Fran for business regularly, and we can always all agree on Perbacco, and it is always full when we go. Our dinners are consistently excellent, and we have some very picky people in the group. The quail and the duck are always excellent, and when they have a pork chop, it can be a standout as well. Love the caramel gelato, as well as the "ugly but good" cookies - great with after-dinner coffee. It has remained my favorite meal over the course of the last year.

            230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            1 Reply
            1. re: CG09

              Yesterday was probably my 4th visit ever, and by far, the best. It was always on my 'very good' list but it is now higher. It also helped that we had a table in an "ever so slightly" less noisy area, where I wasn't hunched over to hear during the meal.

              (1) Shared the sausage crostini and celery w/sardine starters. Delicious
              (2) My main was the veal breast. A delicious plate. Side of beans, which tasted like bacon, so they were delicious.
              (3) The chocolate mouse-like dessert was excellent. The peach dessert was very good.
              (4) 2 1/2L carafes - an Italian white to start, and an Italian red to finish. I like the 1/2L carafes - the selections are decent, the prices are fair, and it lets you have more than 2 half-bottles, and less than 2 full bottles.
              (5) Service was excellent. A combination of warm, professional, competent, and honest.

            2. We had a great if not very traditional meal last week.

              Started with vitello tonnato (thin slices of veal in a tuna and caper sauce) and warm seared octopus with potatoes, celery, and salsa vertde. which were both so fantastic that we split seared sea scallops with ratatouille, zucchini purée, and lobster sauce, also great.

              Then we had "plin tostati" (agnolotti filled with duck confit and sauerkraut) in duck ragù and langarolli filled with short ribs and porcini in red wine butter. They were delicious but suprisingly sour, we would have done better to order a higher-acid wine.

              The pastas were so good we got a couple more, the agnolotti dal plin, which I pretty much always order, and the tajarin with pork sugo and porcini.

              We were too full for main courses so we got the cheese plate, which was actually the main reason for going to Perbacco. Had an excellent Robiola, a Cremificato di Capra which was similar to Gorgonzola Dolcelatte but goat instead of cow, Testun al Barolo, and one other I forget, really as good a cheese plate as you can get. Good portions and all the pointless condiments American demand served on the size.

              For desert, had a bonèt, a dense custard made with "wild harvested chocolate," spectacularly good, pretty much eclipsed the the almond brown butter cake, which would probably have been impressive otherwise.

              Drank lots of great wines. The list is longer and more impressive than ever, the new sommelier, Claudio Villani (who worked at Incanto for a few years and returned from Las Vegas to take this mob) said he's added a hundred new wines in the six months he's been there.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Yes, the Bonet was the dessert. Impressive

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I had the octopus dish as part of a group dinner of 13 in their Barolo room upstairs in the back a few weeks ago. Everyone was astounded by this dish, even the few who were "eh" about octopus. Perfect texture and a multitude of complementary flavor profiles.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I could eat that vitello tonnato all day long. It's one of their outstanding dishes.

                  2. I wasn’t there last night, but Friday. Not unlike Rapini, I’d been part of corporate dinners, receptions, and noshed on the charcuterie at Slow Food events and this was my first chance to experience sitting down with a menu and ordering ala carte. The full Perbacco treatment delivered handsomely on food, wine and service, wowing my visitors from Boston.

                    Perbacco is often referred to as an expense account restaurant or one reserved for special occasions. It will serve well in those roles, but having made the rounds of a few of the new restaurants in town, Perbacco can also be considered the VALUE leader. My favorite dish of the meal was the roast octopus and veal tongue appetizer at $14. This was twice the size of the octopus tapa for the same price at Coqueta and out-muscles the measly tongue appetizer at that price at Monsieur Benjamin. More importantly, this was a far tastier plate. Plus the attentive service and ample room to relax and converse can kick both those restaurants to the curb.

                    Wine prices are very fair too. We enjoyed the 2010 Borgogno “No Name” Langhe, a nebbiolo declassified from the Barolo zone that sees less time in wood. I’ve had other vintages of this wine before and was very happy to find it on the list here for $80. It’s poured by-the-glass as well. When I asked if it should be aerated, the sommelier recommended against decanting. The wine turned out to need more to open it up. While very enjoyable, the last sips after more than an hour in the glass were the best.

                    A few details:

/ SALAME COTTO / SALAME NOSTRANO / TESTA IN CASSETTA DI GAVI / SALAME TORTONESE 29 – A nice assortment accompanied with breadsticks, savory pickled baby carrots, mostarda, and marinated cucumber, and actually too much for three people to start with. I can’t recall the last time I could say that about a cured meat platter. One of the items spread on a crostino tasted like raw cured meat, don’t know what it was called, and hope someone here can ID it for me.

                    PIASTRA ROASTED OCTOPUS / VEAL TONGUE / OLIVE OIL CRUSHED POTATOES / SALSA VERDE / CELERY-FENNEL SALAD 14 – Octopus tentacles were cooked perfectly with a little bit of resistance giving way to tenderness and cloaked in the natural gelatin. Shavings of cured veal tongue and peppery icicle radishes mingled with irregular pieces of potato that soaked up the green sauce. The celery, fennel and fresh herbs added lightness.

                    BURRATA CHEESE / MARINATED CHERRY TOMATOES AND WHITE CORN / BASIL / TOASTED MARCONA ALMONDS 14 – Very fresh di Stefano burrata combined with ripe tomatoes and white corn almost played out as too sweet. But the roasted bitterness of the almonds and savory basil made for just the right balance.

                    AGNOLOTTI DAL PLIN – PASTA FILLED WITH ROASTED MEATS AND SAVOY CABBAGE / SUGO D’ARROSTO 14/19 – The reduced juices were too salty for my taste. Yet the delicate pasta made for the most tender agnolotti I’ve ever put in my mouth, almost melting to release their meaty stuffing.

                    GARGANELLI – “LITTLE WIND PIPES” HAND ROLLED SPINACH PASTA / VEAL SUGO / TOASTED HAZELNUTS 14/19 – Sampled a taste of my dining companion’s plate, loved how sugo would cling to the score marks on the rolls of spinach pasta.

                    BURNT CARAMEL GELATO/ TAHITIAN VANILLA SEA SALT/ PIGNOLI COOKIE 7 – A very rich style of gelato, a bit faint on the burnt note and heavy on the salt.