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Satisfying Saturdays

90 PERBACCO 230 California Street San Francisco, CA 94111

I have had three meals at Perbacco, here in San Francisco, and each of them has been memorable. Eating in good restaurants with good wine lists is a sort of recreation for many of us, and by us, I most definitely include myself. Consider the following:

“Elsewhere outside of Italy there may be greater numbers of Italians but nowhere to an Italian is there a city more like home than San Francisco” --- San Francisco Examiner, 25 November 1923.

Now, it may be that some folks in Little Italy in New York City will dispute that claim, but with its North Beach neighborhood still its Italian stronghold a century later and with scads of traditional Italian restaurants and amazingly creative new restaurants like Quince and Delfina, Acquerello and Incanto, San Francisco continues to its proud tradition of combining Italian heritage and cuisine.

And nowhere is that seen more clearly than at Perbacco, the creation of Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin, whose three decades in some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants has led them now to this upscale Italian restaurant with its homemade salumi and its hints of Provence in its long-cooked dishes. On our most recent visit, we started with five appetizers served family style so that the four of us could sample each one. The burrata cheese with white corn and heirloom tomato carpaccio was the best use of burrata that we have yet encountered. The baby beet salad with horseradish sauce went down well with the root-eater among us, while the Frito Misto of beans, fennel, olives and rock shrimp was the first of the shared items to disappear; it is not to be missed. Less successful was tartare of young veal that was a lot of raw and not particular flavorful ground meat, and it was joined by the roasted octopus in the also-ran column. So, three we would order again, and two we would not. On this trip, we did not order the house-made salumi, but we did enjoy it on two previous visits.

Dinner was another mixed experience with three hits and one miss. The house specialty, the slow- cooked short rib of beef was simply out of this world. Someone or other of our party has tried it on all three visits, and each time, it brought smiles of contentment. Cappicolo Arrosta, a slow-cooked pork shoulder was melt in your mouth good. The first bite was perhaps the best pork and seasoning flavor of the year, but the dish was so large that we did not finish it and it got a bit one-dimensional towards the end. A bigger eater would probably be in hog heaven; next time, we will split the order. We were greatly looking forward to the Lungaroli Al Brasato—pasta stuffed with dried Italian beef, and while it did not disappoint, it also did not transport us. The quail stuffed with fois gras and mushrooms was supposed to be the high-point of the evening. It wasn’t. Instead it was bready and had no noticeable suggestion of duck liver, fatted or otherwise.

All in all, more hits than misses. Also a great wine list, mostly Italian, but with enough from California to satisfy those who prefer something they know to something they do not. We drank Biondi Santi’s Outis from the slopes of Mount Etna and were happy. Clearly, our third visit was mostly a success, and with restaurants that experiment and push the envelope, it is the rare experience when everything is perfect—even at three-star restaurants in France.


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by amy
Posted on:9/11/2010 2:53:58 PM
I've been a fan of both the salumi and the pasta.Have you tried Barbacco as well?
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/12/2010 2:51:11 PM
Barbacco is Perbacco's bar/pub/trattoria just a couple of doors down the street. We have not eaten there, but the folks who joined us at Perbacco have and liked it. It looked very high energy, and, in fact, seems to have taken some of the drinking crowd out of Perbacco--which I view as a good thing because Perbacco had been very noisy on previous visits.One thing I liked, looking in from the street at Barbacco, is the I-Pads that adorn every table with menus, wine lists, etc. I wonder if they also contain restaurant reviews and wine recommendations, baseball scores and Mapquest. Why not?
by Terry Rooney
Posted on:9/14/2010 11:38:06 PM
Charlie, glad to see you like the place as much as my wife and I do. We have been there about 15 times by my count (and Open Table's), over the last four years. Have never been disappointed even once.Try the Torino cocktail, which was invented by the co-owner Umberto. We make them at home now.Barbacco, on the other hand, was disappointing in two tries. Oh well.Terry Rooney

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