2355 Chestnut Street, SF, CA 94123 | 415.771.2216 | website
This southern-Italian favorite in the Marina district is named for a highway that runs through southern Italy, the area that provides the inspiration for the menu, particularly Campania, the region surrounding Naples. They feature fresh pasta, house-butchered and house-cured meats and authentic Neapolitan pizza. Chef/owner Nate Appleman has studied the art of making salumi in Italy and is a pizzaiolo, one of a small band of American chefs who has earned coveted certification as a professional pizza baker. In 2007 he was named a rising star chef by the SF Chronicle, won the coveted James Beard Foundation title of rising star chef in 2008, was named a Best New Chef 2009 by Food & Wine Magazine and published a cookbook last year, A16: Food + Wine. Here’s an interesting article about chef Appleman from Inked magazine.
I dined here with Libby and Chris just a few weeks ago for a belated birthday celebration (for Lib not me) and I was dismayed to read that the much celebrated chef left as of last Monday… Well, at least I can say that I ate there while he was still at the helm and share with you some of the delicious food that we were served.
We shared just a few dishes, starting with the much talked about Mozzarella Burrata with olive oil, sea salt and crostini ($11)
The burrata has a rich buttery texture that is enhanced by the flood of fruity olive oil and sea salt sprinkled on top. It has a delightfully goopy texture that teases you with a playful come hither appeal and is completely addictive served on ethereally crisp wafers of toasty crostini.
I had to try something from the salumi menu, so we ordered the La Quercia tasting ($15), which was quite a lot of meat. Three very generous piles of from the bottom up: Americano, Berkshire and speck prosciutto ($15) silky with a rich luscious meaty texture. Our favorite was the light nutty Speck. La Quercia (Italian for Oak) is an American prosciutto maker that specializes in artisinal salumi in Des Moines, Iowa.
And of course we had to sample the famous Margherita Pizza – topped with tomato, mozzarella, grana padano, basil, olive oil ($16). The lightly blistered and wonderfully chewy crust is made with “00” Caputo flour, the Neapolitan standard. I’ve recently been on a bit of a pizza binge and just love the thin wood fired crust with the thick pillowy border. This is definitely one of the best.
My favorite thing though, was the ceramic pot filled with spicy chili oil that you could drizzle over the pizza. This is absolutely brilliant!
The oil spreads out over the cheese adding a fiery glow. Here you can see how it looks sparkling atop the melted cheese…
We finished our fine repast with the Chocolate Budino Tart with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil ($8.5). This was another addictive treat. Budino is Italian for pudding, although I thought the texture was fluffier and more like a mousse…. Anyways this sits on top of a crunchy chocolate base that reminded us of an oreo crumb crust, is liberally slathered with olive oil and big crunchy crystals of salt.
The salt crystals were big and chunky, just like the kind on big fat bavarian pretzels, and were almost harsh, but in a good way. I still drool just thinking about that dessert… what an excellent combination of texture and flavor.
I’m hoping that the current Executive Chef, Liza Shaw will continue the tradition of the Weds afternoon breakdown of the pig as described here, which I’d love to sit and watch at the chef’s counter over lunch. I’m just not a marina girl, but am willing to venture out here for the addictive and madly flavorful food.