Delfina! My San Francisco Treat
Over Memorial Day weekend I found myself unexpectedly traveling to San Francisco. After strolling through Dolores Park with friends, we decided to grab an early dinner at Delfina, which is now my favorite Italian Restaurant on the west coast (sorry Barrique in Venice, CA… you’ll always be “amore mio,”). Too long-in-the-tooth to be considered the new kid on the block; Delfina’s modern take on Italian cuisine has consistently impressed local and visiting foodies alike for over 15 years. Our early dinner quickly turned into a perfect three-hour food comma as we ate our way through the something-for-everyone menu, signifying our approval with each Italian finger kiss. Benissimo!
Whenever I go out to a restaurant I like to evaluate my experience on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the following 6 criteria: A)Atmosphere, B)Appetizer C)Cocktails/Beverage D)Dessert/Coffee E)Entrée and F)Service. I add up the scores for each category and divide by 6 to get the average… that’s about the extent of my math skills and like balancing a checkbook, about the only thing that I’ve found to be useful! I digress…back to Delfina.
Although I didn’t find the atmosphere to be particularly interesting, I took it as a great sign that the restaurant was packed. Squeezing our way past the other diners towards the back to an industrial-metal four-top with frosted light fixtures hovering above, the restaurant felt understated but still warm and inviting. Even though the number of people there was encouraging, I did find myself having to shout at times to be heard over the din of the crowd. Honestly, what more could you ask from a popular place where the food is supposed to be the star?
You could chalk it up to us ordering the right things, but I think that would be an insult to the culinary prowess of James Beard Award-winning Chef/Owner Craig Stoll. I have a feeling that we could have ordered anything on the menu and been equally impressed. We started with Warm Castelvetrano Olives, Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Sauce, Fried Squash Blossoms, and La Quercia Prosciutto Americano with nectarines. The standout among the four had to be the prosciutto salad. On a bed of arugula, slices of ripe nectarines hid under paper-thin sheets of aged prosciutto with Parmesan crisps on top. Putting all of the components together on my fork in one bite created an amuse-bouche that had me bogarting the plate.
Next was the pasta mid-course of classic spaghetti Pomodoro, a popular staple on the Delfina menu. Not since my recent trip to Florence, Italy have I tasted such delicious pasta. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly al dente, perfectly simple. So good that I’m not embarrassed to say that while waiting for our entrees to come, I ordered another spaghetti to go and brown bagged that fucker out of the restaurant at the end of the night. Yes I did!
Apparently we were just getting started because the Meyer Ranch Hanger Steak & French Fries, Roasted Mary’s Chicken and Pork Ragu Pappardelle that followed our mid-course stopped our conversation completely. The only sounds you could hear were our forks hitting the plates and the shuffling of those plates being passed back and forth between us. Seasoned with rosemary and sage, the French fries were an ideal complement to a perfectly cooked steak. For 15 years the roasted chicken has been a go to for Delfina guests. The evidence of it’s popularity was confirmed by the cleaned chicken bones resting on my partner’s plate; not to mention the disappearance of the side of Anson Mills polenta—quite possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.
By now, I’m sure you realized why we all felt like we were in a food comma by the end—wonderfully so. That’s not to say that the food is heavy at all, it’s surprisingly light and balanced. Because the menu is seasonal, focusing on using local and fresh produce and ingredients, the menu changes daily. That’s all the more reason to go back time and time again. In the interest of keeping it stealth, we ended the night with tea and coffee and skipped dessert (Okay, that’s actually a lie…the truth is I wanted a lemon tart from Tartine, the famous SF bakery next door… my inner fat ass would not be denied). If the savory food was any indication of what to expect from the dessert, I assume one couldn’t go wrong in ordering whatever struck their fancy.
Finally, I’m happy to report that the service was on-point-excellent. I absolutely hate having to carry-on a conversation with crumbs and left over sauce and whatnot under my forearms while I wait for the next course. That never happened because the staff was quick to wipe the table between courses and keep a watchful eye on our beverage refill needs. There was never more than a few moments of glancing up to get a waiter’s attention before whatever we needed was addressed.
What a San Francisco treat! I’m also a huge fan of the Delfina Pizzeria next door. Sharing a whole pie there will make you want to punch some one in the face it’s so damn good and authentic… very reminiscent of the pizza I’ve had in Italy. Go get your “eat on” at Delfina…they’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse!