Recommended by friends who know both food and the city, we were looking forward to a genuine neighborhood food experience, and that’s exactly what this was. It’s in a no man’s land technically probably Marina, off Van Ness Street, an unassuming storefront. It was very full and busy, many of the diners Italian and I would say nearly all local. The sniff test coming in the door produced a reassuring garlic-dominated atmosphere of Italian home cooking.
The room is not slick, decor varies from original to technical, with a cooler display case at the back packed with hams, salami, and cheese. The waiter was diffident but naturally so, and not trying to be anything he wasn’t. Except when I asked him for help with the wine. I should have heeded my instinct when looking at the dozens of wines on the list, he seemed to be talking about one and then pointing to a different one. Eventually on his advice we had a cabernet-merlot from Italy that was pretty plain. And there was a nice 2007 barolo on the list that I know would have been much better.
I had a Mediterranean fish stew to start, tomato-based, and somehow delicious in spite of all the shellfish and other ocean creatures being quite thoroughly overcooked. Robin’s pasta was al dente and full of flavor. For my main course I had starter, carpaccio, soft and tasty with plenty of olive oil.
In a city full of high-end and in some cases affected and self-important places to eat, how refreshing to run across the real thing. Ambience 8.6 (somebody seeking fancy fine dining would not give it so high a score), service 7.1, food 7.9, overall value 8.2.