Osteria Mozza–A Tongue Thriller

Burrata de Puglia

Last week we had a wonderful gastronomic adventure at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles on Melrose Avenue (West Hollywood).   We selected this restaurant on a friend’s recommendation (see Mia’s food blog, “Dubu Diaries”) and we definitely were not disappointed.  We would place this restaurant in the top 20 we have been to around the world!

We started with three antipasti, after receiving a complementary amuse bouche (what is the equivalent in Italian?):  delicious little spirals of mozzarella packed with basil leaves, sundried tomato and olives drizzled with sharp, green virgin olive oil.  What’s not to like about beginning a meal like that?!

Then we moved on to a grilled baby octopus salad on a bed of greens with potatoes, celery & lemon.  I must confess that I am an octopus obsessive and order it whenever it is on the menu.

Ribollita

Our other two appetizers were Ribollita Delfina, a hearty Tuscan soup made with beef, bread and assorted vegetables.  Our young friend who had been to Italy explained what the dish was–we were all ribollita virgins eager to try.  Literally meaning “reboiled”, the ribollita arrived in a soup bowl, looking more like a juicy frittata than a soup, with a clear broth surrounding it. Absolutely wonderful!  Apparently, ribollita dates back to the Middle Ages when servants would gather leftovers from the aristocrats and make soup for their own dinners.

What Osteria Mozza is renowned for, however, is their burrata bar, a wide selection of  burratas and mozzarellas, served with or without vegetables.  We had the special fresh burrata flown in from its place of origin –Puglia, Italy (only on Fridays and Saturdays).  A memorable palate pleaser of soft, fluffy clouds of cheese perfection.

Squid Pasta

Our entrees included a flat fettucini-like pasta–Maltagliati  served with a succulent  wild boar ragú; exceptional grilled quail (two of them!) swaddled in pancetta  and braised, honeyed radicchio; braised beef short ribs in a  porcini reduction on a bed of delectable creamy  polenta.  But  the most adventurous and surprising combination:  a squid ink pasta (chitarra freddi) tossed with dungeness crab, spiced with jalapeno and topped with a delicate sea urchin.  What a tongue thriller!  To accompany this food coma we toasted with two bottles of  Ferrari,  Trento Brut Rosé –a fine dry wine similar to a Spanish rosé cava or a pink prosecco.

If someone had told us that this restaurant was owned by partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, restaurateurs with far-reaching empires including wineries, we probably would have passed, discounting the hype these two always receive with rave reviews that only served to disappoint at two previous encounters at restaurants they own in New York City and Kansas City.  However,  Osteria Mozza, which opened in July 2007, and was nominated as Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation  that year and recipient of one Michelin star, does not disappoint!
  You probably will not find an osteria this side of  Italy that is more fun, high-spirited, and serious about serving only the very best gourmet creations.  Next door is the smaller, more casual Pizzeria Mozza, which we hope to try the next time we are in town.  Perhaps it is because Nancy Silverton has entered into a partnership with the more famous Batali and Bastianich that this is the best riff on Italian cuisine we have enjoyed in a very long time.

Lolinda–Gaucho Gourmet

Recently we had the good fortune of celebrating at Lolinda, the new hipster Argentine restaurant on Mission Street, in San Francisco. Sister restaurant to Beretta (Italian food), the massive warehouse used to be the home of Medjool, a Middle Eastern restaurant.  Now, Lolinda has been transformed into a sleek, dimly lit open space with two bars, dining area seating approximately 200 people (including some banquettes on the side). Fabulous food in a boisterous, somewhat noisy setting–very lively and urbane!

It’s a carnivore’s delight:  Argentina is world-famous for its churrasco barbecue style and chimichurri sauces.  The beef selections are imaginable and delectable with over seven different types of grass-fed, grain finished beef cuts (ranging from short ribs to blood sausage).    The fish and vegetable selections more than hold their own. Additional options include two types of ceviche and a handful of vegetarian offerings such as a pastel de choclo (squash, onions, raisins, and olives, cooked in a corn crust) and platano al horno (ripe plantains with queso fresco, and jicama salsa).

An affordably priced wine list primarily focuses on lesser-known varietals from Portugal, Spain, Chile, and Argentina including sherry and port and 20 options available by the glass. We had a full-bodied Malbec blend with  Cabernet: a bottle of Syrah Petite Fleur from Bodega Monteviejo winery, in the Mendoza region of Argentina.  I also had a superb glass of a Spanish rose cava that was a special feature that night.  There is a  shorter but exemplary selection of European and South American beers too.

Four of us were able to test this restaurant’s capabilities with a wide range of dishes:  ceviche de pescado, an unusual and delectable halibut with aji amarillo, fried corn, and sweet potato; grilled  artichokes with lemon aioli (alcachofas); charred vegetables with tiny beluga lentils on a bed of  frisée with almonds in vinaigrette (ensalada de lentejas), two types of empanadas–corn (maiz) with aji amarillo, ricotta and  salsa criolla as well as chicken (pollo) with raisins, potato and aji amarillo.  It would have been very difficult for us to choose between the two.

The grilled dishes came next: grilled baby octopus (pulpo) with  beans on a bed of  frisee; branzino with a medley of root vegetables in escabeche and mild pepper sauce (lubina a la plancha); hanger steak (asado) with onion, zucchini, red anticucho sauce, and crosscut beef short ribs (tira de asado).

Ending this feast was a crunchy culinary delight of   peanut butter mousse  (cajeta crust with  peanut brittle bits) with  dulce de leche ice cream with peanut crunch.  One of these was enough to enjoy with four spoons!  Lolinda is a must among the very newest restaurants in San Francisco!

Lolinda restaurant is located at 2518 Mission St.; 415-550-6970; open seven days a week, serving dinner on Sunday-Thursday 5:30 PM-12 AM, and Friday-Saturday until 1 AM.

 

Azuki–The Sushi, Not the Bean

We’ve eaten at just about every high-end sushi restaurant that exists in any town we are in, looking for the Holy Grail of sushi, and some standouts have really  been memorable.  In San Diego, I believe that  Azuki belongs in the same category as the best we’ve been to: for its freshness, creative presentation, and quality of preparation.

Located in Banker’s Hill near Balboa Park, Azuki is both a “sushi-ya” restaurant and watering hole.  We arrived at the door (beautiful glass with azuki beans inside the panels) just as the Happy Hour was ending but the friendly sushi chefs encouraged us to get a drink and an appetizer before they would officially close Happy Hour.  

So, we sat at the bar and immediately ordered beer and sake, with spicy albacore tataki (sprinkled with yuzu, shichimi pepper, jalapeno, lemon zest with Hawaiian sea salt (usually $14 we were charged the $6 happy hour price!).

Then we ordered a few hot dishes: the hamachi kama (grilled yellow tail head chock full of succulent morsels of cheek flesh) and three types of tofu  were delectable. Some of their creative, whimsical  interpretations of sushi or raw food were amazing:  loved the Kobe roll–spicy rock shrimp with avocado and seared wagyu beef layered on top.  Just to push the eater over the top, truffle aioli and parmigiano reggiano were garnishes laid on the seaweed.  Also enjoyed the Vertigo roll–snow crab, scallops, hamachi with shiso leaves, cucumber and avocado to add green color and veggie flavor.  The classic sushi was beautifully presented and perfect, sweet, tender, and impeccable color.

Azuki is committed to using local and organic produce whenever possible and due to overfishing concerns with bluefin tuna, serves only more sustainable aqua culture fish and seafood. The menu of hot, cold, small and large plates means Azuki has something to offer all appetites – and budgets -, even for non-sushi lovers. The wine, sake and beer lists are excellent, too, so it would be fun for drinks only…or maybe that dessert I skipped.  Live music later on weekends could make Azuki an entertainment destination in and of itself.  If you are in San Diego, this is a must! 

 

Machka–Istanbul in San Francisco

A new Mediterranean restaurant opened in San Francisco last month ( at 584 Washington St. in the Financial District) called Machka. The small 32-seat dining room features long communal tables, a few smaller tables, and lots of dark wood paneling, suggesting an old tavern with its exposed brick walls.   A beautiful flag with the Tengrian crescent symbol (used for the restaurant’s logo), representing the moon and stars, hangs outside by the front door.

Serving dishes that artfully combine Turkish cuisine with the flavors of Spain, Greece and Italy, Machka  would be the perfect place for either  lunch or late dinner in a district of San Francisco not known for many top restaurants.

Stuffed Dates

A signature appetizer of blue cheese and chorizo-stuffed dates with pastirma, or Turkish pastrami, on a small  frisée salad served with sherry wine and mustard vinaigrette was our favorite, a culinary flavor bomb!

Pistachio-crusted Goat Cheese

A close second was pistachio-crusted warm goat cheese with caramelized onions on crostini topped with golden currants and drizzled honey!

Other signature menu items include house-made falafel, grilled octopus, grilled kebabs (smoked paprika marinated beef, lamb or chicken), and flatbread wraps (durum) stuffed with vegetables, meat (lamb, chicken or beef), and tahini. The wine list has both Turkish wines as well as California ones.   We chose a white Turkish wine, Kavaklidere’s “Cankaya” which was dry, crisp and delicious.

Next time we go (and we definitely consider this a winner), I want to try the kebabs and falafel.  The durum, I thought, was not quite as good as at other places where I have eaten –a bit too dry and the lamb should have been more tender.  The flatbread was also a bit thick for my taste.  Still, the appetizers (mezes) and service were outstanding and I am still thinking of those flavor bombs!

Visit Machka at  584 Washington Street, at Montgomery Street (415-391-8228)  and let me know what you think!

Bar Pintxo: In a pinch

Recently on a trip to LA we embarked on a culinary adventure beginning with a cooking demo by Bar Pintxo Chef David Planowski   at Surfas, a gourmet kitchen supply store in Culver City.  Recently rated as one of the top 10 bars/tapas restaurants by Los Angeles Magazine, we wanted to check it out for ourselves by sampling at the demo.  Surfas had about fifty participants with several audience volunteers helping Chef David with an unforgettable gazpacho, including his secrets: squeezing the tomatoes and cucumbers to get maximum juice and the variability of  his standard vinaigrette (has to do with the mustard options).

  At Bar Pintxo in Santa Monica we tried a delectable array of small plates and had a chance to talk with Chef David about some of his dishes.  “Pintxo” in Basque (pronounced “pinch-o”) refers to small plates that are speared with a toothpick or skewer and usually a bit smaller than tapas. Although we are tapas addicts, I can’t say that most of the pintxos were smaller than the tapas plates we sample in San Francisco and New York.  We thought the restaurant was generous with proportions.  Some of the menu items we had not seen at other establishments before: dates with smoked bacon and valdeon cheese,  crab with citrus essence and avocado cream, seared calamari salad with pickled radishes, albondigas (lamb meatballs) filled with pickled grapes, on a bed of spinach with pumpkin seeds. and snap peas with fresh mint. We did have some dishes we have tried elsewhere as well:  grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and infused olive oil (a little stingy with the octopus, I thought), chorizo with tomatoes, white asparagus with romesco sauce , and jamon serrano and jamon iberico We finished off with a strawberry ginger flan that was an original interpretation of the classic dessert with just the right combination of fruity sourness and gingery tang.

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Chef David explained to us that he loved experimenting and changed the menu often.  So, Bar Pintxo is a keeper if you find yourselves walking along the beautiful Santa Monica beach and want to have a delightful and unpretentious meal of  Spanish small plates this side of Madrid and San Sebastian!  Bar Pintxo’s also has an unbelievable wine list , including some difficult-to-find Penedes cava.  Try Bar Pintxo’s –you’ll love it!

 

 

Seagrass Restaurant: Bon Appétit–Mi Cuit

Last weekend we went to Santa Barbara and had a delightful experience participating in the inaugural cooking lesson by Chef Robert Perez, owner of Seagrass (30 East Ortega Street).  Trained in France, the Netherlands, and as a sous chef at L’Auberge de Soleil, Perez opened his first restaurant Citronée near Sacramento before moving thirteen years later to  Santa Barbara. This intimate family-run restaurant is elegant but not severe, relaxed and informal.  The chef’s wife, Marianna, serves as hostess and his son, Ruben, manages and greets guests.

Seagrass is rated #1 by Zagat’s, with #2 being Bouchon (where we had an equally phenomenal meal the night before).  What made Seagrass especially memorable for us foodies, is that we had not only the exuberant chef all to ourselves but his sincerity and hospitality in the kitchen made us feel like we were in our own home.  The “coastal cuisine” that Chef Perez specializes in is deserving of the highest praise:  the quality of ingredients includes local shellfish, salmon flown in from New Zealand, locally raised lamb, regional wild boar, and farmers market produce. Together with mostly Santa Barbara County wines, what more could anyone ask for?

Before sitting down to the three-course lunch of soup (cauliflower-puree garnished with a smathering of tiny crispy soba noodles), Alpine salmon, and chocolate mousse with chocolate decadence cake on the side, we had a demonstration of how to prepare this exquisitely designed meal.

For the soup–we watched the chef nurture a classic vichyssoise. Next was the pièce de résistance –the entrée of Alpine Salmon (Mi Cuit –“half-cooked”) with green cabbage “slaw” and tomato basil beurre blanc. (For the truly  curious, check out our YouTube clip at “seagrass cooking demo“).

This unusual salmon entrée is a bridge between sashimi and ceviche.  Semi-cured in olive oil, salmon mi-cuit can be served at room temperature or cold.  Olive oil is heated to 120-130 degrees and then poured over the raw salmon filets, submerging them gently in the pan to soften, retaining an amazingly bright pumpkin color.  Hence, the “mi-cuit“, the half-cooked, half-cured salmon. While the filets soak, the Napa green cabbage “slaw” is lightly sautéed in a pan with carrots (diced into tiny cubes) and then plated first, as a bed for the salmon mi-cuit.  Lastly, an incandescent and translucent tomato beurre blanc is prepared and gently poured over the perfectly bathed salmon.  And voilà– salmon mi- cuit!

For lunch Seagrass paired Melville’s crispy delicate Viognier with cauliflower soup and  Ojai’s gorgeously fruity  Presidio Syrah with the salmon mi cuit.  Each menu item is created, Chef Perez informed us, with wine in mind– nothing too delicate or too spicy to overpower each recommended wine.   Ever since the movie “Sideways”, Santa Barbara is now inseparable from its association with wine and proud of it.  This restaurant has some of the best wines the region has to offer.  Bon Appétit!

 

Morimoto–A Culinary Haiku

One of the most extraordinary restaurants I have been to in my life is Morimoto in Napa. I sampled the culinary wizardry of Chef Morimoto during a wonderful spa weekend with my daughter.  This is a must for those who love Japanese food with a unique riff on classical recipes. Imagine a French Laundry for Asian cuisine!

Chef Masaharu Morimoto is well- known as one of the extraordinary Iron Chefs on the Food Channel.  With a touch of the molecular gastronomy Spain made famous (without the ridiculous heights the Spanish sometimes succumb to),   this Riverfront restaurant in downtown Napa was packed to overflowing.

The restaurant is large with several dining rooms that seat perhaps sixty people each, but the decor is an artist’s visual feast, before the gustatory one begins.  Some of the tables are four-inch thick slabs of black walnut, chandeliers are constructed like origami and wall sculptures are twisted twigs, which look like birds perched on branches.  Cases hold glass sculptures and beautiful Japanese ceramics.  The food, of course, is also a series of works of art.

We had beet salad with greens that were very small and perfectly shaped, with delicate shiso leaves no bigger than half an inch.  Some of the greens were not recognizable but the textures and the yuzo-based citrus-flavored dressing were as delicate as the leaves arranged on the plate.

Our next appetizer– toro tartare–basically the filet mignon of the maguro (tuna) was served on what looked like a 2″x3″ cutting board.  At first, I thought the cutting board was painted red.  But, a very smooth layer of toro had been perfectly placed and smoothed out on the board.  Accompanied by six different “toppings”  (wasabi, nori paste, sour cream with wasabi paste, caviar, and a puree of shiso leaves), each of us had a flat spoon/spatula implement to scrape off a portion of toro and then drag it through all six condiments presented on still another signature wooden board.  The dish looked so intricate and beautiful we had to ask our waitress how to eat it!  Unbelievably exquisite toro–every morsel unforgettable.

 

Although we could have been completely satisfied with just one more appetizer, we had no impulse control and ordered five more dishes.  Continuing with oyster foie gras including a dollop of  uni with a  soy-sauce based drizzle (an outrageously innovative and superb combination), our next dish– yose dofu (a type of tofu custard) was steamed and served at the table. The  small plate of hamachi (yellowtail) with togarashi (a semi-spicy red pepper, gin creme fraiche, candied plum) looked like a small Napoleon instead of a sushi-like hors d’oeuvres.  We thought it was dessert when we first saw it at the next table.    We ordered the chef’s medley of seasonal produce (cauliflower, broccoli, assortment of mushrooms, edamame) that was simply steamed with only a hint of either sesame oil or butter.  We kept some of the soy sauce-based dressing from the oysters and lightly sprinkled it over the veggies for perfection.  We think Chef Morimoto should combine the two.  Otherwise, the greens are a bit boring in flavor, though definitely not in texture.

Seriously full (with both the tables on the left and the right of us occupied and emptied twice by other diners), we still had one more dish coming to us: seafood toban yaki (lobster, king crab, mussels, clams, diver scallops, with a spicy red-miso sake broth.  It is the Japanese/Korean rendition of cioppino–a red kimchi-flavored broth steaming with delicate shellfish of just the sublimest  tender morsels arriving piping hot in its classic black iron pot.  (Appropriate for the Iron Chef!) We were so stuffed from all the decadent pleasure of eating a meal that was also part entertainment in its presentation and concept.  Morimoto Napa is a treasure for that special celebration — a memorable experience of a lifetime!

Moss Landing–Cruising around Santa Cruz

Last weekend, driving back from our daughter’s spectacular wedding at Costanoa Lodge, we stopped in Moss Landing to introduce some relatives to a small, going-back-in-time sort of place along the coastline.  Not the typical, tourist-designed site for buying tchotchkes, Moss Landing retains its quaint, historic fishing village vibe!  Located on Monterey Bay at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing is one of our local best-kept secrets.

First we went to La Galeria, where there is a Monterey Peninsula College printmakers’ exhibit.  Not so easy to find.  You turn onto the main street (Moss Landing Road) from Highway  1 at “The Whole Enchilada”.  Don’t be fooled and  stop there.  Keep on going a few 100 feet and hidden behind The Haute Enchilada you can find this little surprise of a gallery– very cozy and wood-paneled–with approximately 100 prints, some priced between $75 (unframed) and $120 (framed).  The public reception will be on Saturday, October 22, from 2:00- 5:00 p.m. with food catered by Haute Enchilada (www.hauteenchilada.com).  We first went into the gallery to look at the exhibit, and then had a very tasty lunch at the restaurant in front of La Galeria –Haute Enchilada.  We shared poblano chile soup, tortilla soup, guacamole and chips, pork and chicken enchiladas, fish tacos, taco salad, and a delicious rosemary chicken panini.  Everyone loved sharing their food and enjoyed the sunshine on the patio with chilled local beers as well as Mexican ones.

After lunch and art viewing, there are also other surprises: antiques, a small Shakespeare museum (including a chair made from the wood from Stratford-on-Avon’s theater and nearby church), the exquisite Stella Page Design handbag boutique (designs include Japanese koi, Buddhas, and exotic floral patterns). Moss Landing is also home to MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium’s research facility), and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the research arm for the California State University system.

We didn’t have time to walk along the pier and look at the boats and the egrets, pelicans, herons  and cormorants who graze and fish everywhere along the water.  Birders would find nearby Elkhorn Slough impossible to ignore, a favorite with naturalists.  Guided tours on kayaks are available on weekends (http://www.elkhornslough.org/visit.htm) and also through the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   But, if you have time either on your way into Santa Cruz to go to one of the First Friday art walks or to Aptos and neighboring beaches, don’t forget to take a glimpse at California’s past and stop for an hour or two in Moss Landing.

Lolo Restaurant–What’s not to like?

  A few weeks ago we dined at a very small Mexican/Spanish fusion restaurant–Lolo (3234 22nd Street, San Francisco)– that had an innovative menu of succulent morsels, aka tapas, that even foodies like us could find nothing to criticize.  This tiny, dark restaurant with cramped tables seating no more than 45 people had friendly service and a quirky, humorous decor–one wall is filled with hanging spoons.

The key for us whenever we order a lot of small plates–appetizers, soups and salads–is to test the chef’s skills.  So, a tapas restaurant is our idea of culinary nirvana!  Lolo’s is a study in transformations! Nothing on the menu is what it seemed–a pleasant surprise to say the very least!

We had about eight different dishes for the four of us. Although tapas are small plates, sometimes it isn’t easy to share a particular menu item four ways.  So, we asked and our waiter guided us in the right direction every time without fail.

We began with a fabulous salad of roasted beets with a dollop of feta mousse and pickled rings of red onions.  We followed that with a double order of ground lamb sliders, double order of crab tostadas with chorizo, leeks, and aioli with avocado puree,  tuna tacon–seared tuna, shellfish aioli, avocado, and roasted tomatillo sauce, and an extraordinary, thinly sliced octopus tiradito–chili flakes, sea salt, and aioli –that tasted like a slightly spicy ceviche.

Our final courses were the heaviest:  double orders of gorditas– blue corn masa pockets filled with braised short ribs, roasted three chile sauce, and pickled onions–and carnitas–shredded pork shoulder with organic blue corn tortillas and roasted tomatillo sauce with guacamole and pickled onions

To top off this fabulous feast we ordered two plates of “taco tropical”, spice-dusted panko-crusted fried shrimp in a jicama, sliced paper-thin instead of a tortilla.  The jicama is marinated in lime juice overnight to make it pliable for bending like a tortilla.  For us this dish is the star turn on the menu, although not highlighted as such.  Go to Lolo’s website —www.lolosf.com— under the “Videos” tab to see the YouTube clip revealing the creation of  this dish and the testimonial by the chef from Specchio who is so addicted to this taco tropical that he visits Lolo every week for his fix!  We probably would not have ordered this dish, if I hadn’t seen it being made on YouTube.  Don’t deprive yourself of this treat–calling this “comfort food” does not do the dish justice!

A word of advice–this restaurant is a sleeper but hardly a secret  to  locals in the know.  Without a reservation, you’ll have to wait.  And, you shouldn’t linger…after all, others are waiting patiently to experience the same mouth-watering delights!

Perbacco Ristorante– “Good Times”

On our visit to San Francisco last weekend we decided to dine at Perbacco ristorante and bar, specialists in Northern Italian cuisine with a focus on the luxurious and lush regional cooking of Piedmont. Loosely translated from the Italian as something like “wow” or “good times”, Perbacco did not disappoint. We had a sumptuous food extravaganza of traditional dishes presented stylishly with perfection in seasonings and freshness of ingredients.

The space is large and elegant, a perfect choice for any special occasion or just a treat. For us it was our anniversary and we wanted an unusual menu. Perbacco’s menu changes daily–just what we wanted to challenge our palates. As major foodies who take lots and lots of photos of food wherever we vacation, we are not easy to please.

We ordered a lot of food. Our first appetizer was a pesce crudo (the Italian equivalent of sushi)–an Australian hiramasa (Japanese word for the yellowtail kingfish) on paper-thin slices of peach with a charred padron pepper sauce drizzled over it. The second appetizer was vitello tonnato: slow-roasted veal tenderloin with a lemon/albacore tuna sauce on a bed of capers and arugula. Both were works of edible art, delectable with every bite, created from produce, fish, and meats which themselves are natural wonders.

For our main course, we decided to share three unusual pastas: fusilli pepati, agnoli di coniglio and tajarin. Fusilli pepati is hand-rolled seven-pepper duck-egg pasta (like tagliatelli) with duck liver infused with the slightest hint of dark cherry. Agnoli di coniglio is a triangle-shaped pasta (like large tortellini but with the texture of ravioli), stuffed with roasted rabbit in a wine sauce. And last but not least was the tajarin, handcut tagliatelli in a pork sugo with porcini mushrooms. All three pastas were presented on a special plate subdivided into discrete sections. Because the pastas are quite filling, we shared an heirloom tomato salad with charred Tropea onions, basil, anise hyssop, and ricotta. An extremely generous salad to share–a feast of purple/green, red, yellow, green, and orange tomatoes. I think the only color missing was blue!

The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman also seems to be a huge fan of chef Steffan Terje’s pastas, calling the tajarin’s sauce ” the kind of sauce you sop up greedily and dream about later.”

This five-year old restaurant was still packed at 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, when we were about halfway through our dinner. The crowd is primarily young but diners were of every age in the spectrum.

We are definitely going back to this sensational Italian restaurant, 2011 recipient of the Birra Moretti Best Authentic Italian Restaurant in North America. Reserve a table, enjoy a fine bottle of wine–we loved the orange (yes, orange) 2009 Catarrato, a very dry Sicilian wine by Girgis. The imagination of the chef and the friendliness of the wait staff make this dining experience a delectable and sensuous delight!

Perbacco is located at 230 California Street (415) 955-0663. For more information, go to their website at http://www.perbaccosf.com and read about the owners at http://www.sfgate.com.

Absolutely heavenly!! If you think I am exaggerating, check out “Pasta Porn: 101 0f America’s Most Delicious Noodle Dishes” at http://newyork.grubstreet.com.