Pane e Vino, San Francisco

October 2013

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.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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