Perbacco, San Francisco.

September 2017

This is a high-class big-city Italian restaurant that delivers very good food in a busy efficient atmosphere. It’s located in the California Street financial district beside a couple of other interesting places to eat: Michael Mina, and the long-standing Taddich Grill.

It’s a big room with I’m guessing about 100 seats including a small mezzanine. The welcome is friendly and businesslike and we’re taken to a nicely-set-up table along the service thoroughfare. Our server was a little-bit diffident guy, charming but admitting early-on that he’d only been there a couple of months. He was more than happy to make menu suggestions and after letting us know that there is a sommelier took over and recommended a wine after canvassing our price range.

We were there for lunch and the place filled up quickly, noise developing fast as well. It was a mixed business and tourist crowd, mostly mature people having a good time.

We started with squid, and vitello tonnato (a veal and tuna dish). The squid was sautéed soft – not deep-fried – and tender but maybe a little lacking in fishy flavour. The vitello was lovely, a sour-dressed cold thin-sliced carpaccio-style combination with tasty sprinkling of (I think) watercress and (I know) capers. Appetizing. We were ready for the pasta course.

It didn’t disappoint. Robin had a succulent fat ravioli called langaroli, filled with braised short rib flavoured with truffle. Perfect toothsome pasta exploding with gently truffled beef taste, anointed with a soft red wine reduction. Mine was what the server told us was their most popular item, pappardelle pasta with beef short ribs, the meat shredded with a hint of raw horseradish. This was wonderful but closer to ordinary pasta than the langaroli. Plenty to eat for both of us and no lack of flavour satisfaction.

This was a lovely lunch for a couple of grandparents escaping – and willing to spend a few bucks – while our three-year-old charge was in day care. It felt like being where you should be to enjoy great food and being nicely taken care of in a busy bustling place. There were plenty of staff: servers back and forth with plates of wonderful-smelling Italian delicacies everywhere, although our guy was a wee bit slow and we had to remind him that we had ordered some wine. That wine was a non-barolo nebbiolo from Langhe packed with fruit on the nose and balanced but gentle in the mouth, not a bad value at $90 US and a fine Italian accompaniment to our Italian lunch. We spent about $260 Canadian with the tip and were not at all unhappy.

We’d go back and we recommend this place, but in the real world even though our daughter is in the Bay Area now there are so many great restaurants in the region we will likely be trying something else.

Food 9.1, service 8.6, ambience 9.2, value 8.3, peace and quiet 6.5.

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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