Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Barbacco Trattoria in San Francisco

An Italian Gathering Place with Urban Sophistication
220 California St., San Francisco
Financial District
PH: 415.955.1919
Open weekday lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Monday to Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted, reservations only for parties of 6 or more

If I worked in the Financial District, I’d probably go to Barbacco every day after work. And from the looks of the crowd on the night I was there recently for an early dinner, everyone else in San Francisco feels the same way.

Barbacco is the new trattoria from the people behind Perbacco, which is right next door. The fine Piedmonte and Ligurian cuisine remains with Perbacco, while the rustic Italian cured meats moved into the shiny but narrow Barbacco.

A long bar runs down the restaurant with several small tables next to the brick wall (with lots of mirrors that initially confused me thinking it was another part of the restaurant). Despite the crowds, I was able to squeeze myself into a solo seat near the back of the bar right in front of a big flat screen TV showing a football game.

Barbacco being a trattoria, you can imagine the wine selection. And to get all fancy, Barbacco has uploaded its entire wine list onto iPads. So if you’re interested in ordering some wine, your server brings you an iPad where you can search for a wine by color, grape varietal and region. After browsing for quite a long time (OK, I admit I just wanted to play with the iPad), I ordered a glass of the Querceto di Castellina ($9), a 2006 Sangiovese that’s imported exclusively for the restaurant. It was a fantastic red that was smooth with just some slight tannins.

But onto the food. First up I got a plate of the Pesce Crudo ($9), or raw fish dish. The fish that night was halibut served up with thin slices of fennel and radish, and dressed with rock salt and olive oil. The fish was fresh and blended nicely with the fennel and radish, but I did feel the kitchen was a bit heavy with the extra virgin olive oil because there was a lot of it on the plate.

Put the crudo was just a warm up for the real highlight of Barbacco’s menu – the salumi selection. In this case, I had my eyes on the ‘nduja, a smoked Calabrian salame that’s spicy and served warm and soft with grilled crostini. Several artisan salumi makers have been making their own ‘nduja in town, so I wanted to see what it was all about.

The creamy ‘nduja basically comes out like a spread, with a few marinated peppers on top that helps cut into its richness. You can order a large or small portion (I got a small for $5, large goes for $8) and the small was more than enough for me. The server offered to bring more crostini, but I didn’t want more bread and instead just lathered as much of the ‘nduja I can get on each slice. I enjoyed the creaminess and spicy flavor. This is a dish that I would order every day with a glass of wine as a snack before going home for dinner with a smile on my face.

Along with the salumi and bruschette selections, there are a few large plates on the Barbacco menu. I really wanted to order the “angry mussels” dish, but it’s called that because it’s spiced up with ‘nduja. Since I already had a lovely dish of ‘nduja, I decided to order a pasta dish.

I went for comfort with the Lasagna Bolognese ($12). To offset what I expected would be a cheesy dish, I ordered a side of the seasonal heirloom tomatoes ($5), which were beautiful and just lovely by itself with no special dressing other than extra virgin olive oil and salt, and some sprinkling of basil leaves.

The lasagna was definitely creamy from the b├ęchamel. Barbacco mixes it up by using spinach pasta for its lasagna. It felt a bit unusual eating lasagna with green layers, and I don’t know if the green lasagna really added to the dish, which was mostly brightened by the quality cheese and meat ragu. (I think I would have preferred real spinach stuffed in the lasagna instead of the green pasta sheets.)

Side note: Since I was in the back, there was just one server handling the back row of the bar and all the nearby tables, but he was friendly, efficient and attentive despite the crowd.

Perbacco has succeeded in creating a California trattoria in Barbacco, a place that’s comfortable for wine lovers with food that combines the techniques of Italy with the seasonal ingredients of Northern California.

Single guy rating: 3.75 stars (wine and food shine)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Barbacco on Urbanspoon

Related post:
Perbacco: “Rustic Italian with Refined Tastes.”


Anonymous said...

How does the salumi compare with Adesso? -- David

Carolyn Jung said...

I LOVE Barbacco. I love working from home, but sometimes I sure wish I worked in the Financial District so I could drop into Barbacco all the time. ;)

Single Guy Ben said...

David, I feel the quality of the salumi between Adesso and Barbacco is about the same, but Adesso has more selection while Barbacco is stronger with its wine program. Then again, Adesso wins for its happy hour.

foodhoe said...

aha, that nduja looks looser and softer than the one from Boccalone, is it heated up? Mmmm, that looks delicious, and I would so love to have both that and the mussels!

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, yes, the nduja is soft and was warmed up. I should have gotten both, huh?!