Dinner at Incanto, San francisco

by foodhoe on April 4, 2010

1550 Church St. (at Duncan Street), SF | 415.641.1500 | website

Incanto has been on my list of restaurants to try for a very long time, and I have to say it was worth the wait…  I’ve been tantalized and beguiled by regular visits to their temple of tasty salty pig parts, Boccalone in the Ferry Building, where you can explore delicious cured meats made from parts of the animals that go beyond bacon, like head cheese and guanciale (pork jowl).  Incanto takes the concept of sustainable eating seriously and serves parts of the animal that are often discarded, so that no animal part is wasted.  This includes organs and things like brains, ears, tongues, tails or feet, parts that are known as offal.  The Italian based menu features an adventurous variety of meats, including the famous house-cured stuff, pastas, fresh local seafood and a commitment to sustainably grown and harvested produce.

I noticed these cherubic boars heads smiling benevolently down as I walked up to the entrance.  The pig motif continues inside the main dining area with a large diptych featuring a trio of curly pigtails.  Since this was my first visit to the restaurant, which was recently refurbished, I can only say that it is lovely and felt spacious and that we enjoyed a pretty spectacular meal.

Incanto was one of the first restaurants to stop selling expensive bottled water to reduce their carbon footprint and serves only complimentary local water that is filtered and chilled and offered either still or sparkling.

sparkling water

house fizzed water

The bread basket was madly delicious, slices of crusty baguette, savory focaccia and crisp breadsticks coated with seeds and glistening sea salt, all accompanied with an addictive olive tapenade.

Thanks to a hint from our supremely competent server we snagged the last order of Fish Bones and Chili made from the spine of yellowtail tuna which must be picked up in your hands and gnawed on like ribs.  This was remarkably delicious, although the gnawing required a certain amount of delicacy around sharp spiny bones.  It yielded tender bits of richly flavored meat that was incredibly finger licking good.  Now that I look at this picture, I wonder had we gnawed further, were those big tubular things filled with marrow?  Bones are bones after all.

They brought us this plate of warmed moist towels to clean up with afterwards.  A very nice touch!  Our server, who happened to be a certified sommelier, helped us select exquisite wines that were amazingly affordable.

We sat near the rear of the dining room, close to the kitchen and although it was dark, I managed to snag a picture of the famous offal evangelist chef Chris Cosentino who we all know from his appearances on the Food Network in Chef vs. the City and as a contestant on Iron Chef America.

We split an order of Vitello Tonnato: roasted bone marrow and cured tuna heart ($11), which was mesmerizing to look at with chopped fresh herbs, flakes of dried red chili that glistened enticingly.

The bones were cut lengthwise (there is an actual term for this which I don’t remember), which makes it much easier to scoop out all of the miraculous marrow.  The texture is rich and creamy and the cured tuna melts in adding to the umami.

JT had to order the Pork Belly and pickled green walnut salsa ($12) which was fabulously rich, gooey and tender and crisp in spots and the salsa added a lovely piquant counterpoint to the opulent flesh.

We debated about whether we wanted to eat family style, but I selfishly insisted that I wanted my plate to myself, although we did all share bites, us being us after all…  I had the full size plate of Pipe Rigate, with foie gras, trotters and mustard greens ($10/$16).  I loved the chewy tubes of pasta and how the wonderful brothy sauce coated them with a rich and savory flavor.

Does Foie gras actually fall under the category of offal?  Probably not, but I was bewitched by the plump morsels that abounded in the tangles of noodle and chunks of tender trotters, and which melted in my mouth.

P had the Lamb Neck with broccolini d’lacinato, polenta and gremolata ($24) which is topped with a pile of fresh herbs and served over creamy polenta that was ringed with a whisper of the savory juices.

The meat fell from the bone in tender chunks that reminded me of carnitas, and I thanked my lucky stars that I was sitting next to this delectable plate, and I must add that the polenta was really addictive too…

Daisy had the Spaghettini with Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk and parsley ($10/16), which was surprisingly pungent and garlicky.

JT couldn’t resist the Calves Sweetbreads and Kidney, lentils radish, molasses and lime ($21)

We were intrigued by the dessert menu and decided to split a Caramel Flan served with blue cheese and candied pistachios, and drizzled with truffled honey which was decadent and rich but overwhelmed by the cheese.

Our server recommended that we order the Panna Cotta, all she had to say was that Michael Bauer had raved about it.  And it was the clear winner.  The bay leaf panna cotta ($8) with Bearss lime curd was refreshing and rich and the perfect way to end the meal.

I’m sad that we didn’t try the head to tail feast, but for some reason P had very strong objections to paying $75 for lips and assholes (those were his exact words, which just crack me up).  After this meal, I am determined to come back for the feast, which they offer only in the spring.  On the way out I noticed a small selection of tasty salty pig parts on display from Boccalone, and wished that Mr. K and I still lived in the neighborhood…  But this gives me a reason to come back for a visit and hopefully soon.

Incanto on Urbanspoon

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

hungry dog April 4, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Haven’t been to this place in years–I need to go back. Foodhoe, I love the way you review restaurants, and your photos are the best. You’re rad.
.-= hungry dog´s last blog ..Salmon bulgogi, and something new =-.


Rosa April 4, 2010 at 7:10 pm

A nice place with a great vibe. gorgeous food!




consumableJoy April 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Oh my! I absolutely love your review of this restaurant. Incanto has shot to the top of my list of restaurants that must try as soon as possible.
.-= consumableJoy´s last blog ..Dinner @ eVe Restaurant =-.


Gastronomer April 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Now, THIS is my kind of place! Just so you know, I’d pay $75 for lips and assholes. I would!
.-= Gastronomer´s last blog ..Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream – Seattle =-.


Phyllis April 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Omigod, you had me at ‘crispy pig parts’! Awesome review, I’m a big fan of Chris Cosentino, and you have a spectacular way of describing your food that often makes me drool. Bone marrow, foie gras, and sweetbreads all in the same meal…booking my plane ticket right now!
.-= Phyllis´s last blog ..Durian for Dummies =-.


grace April 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm

pig, pig, pig. here’s my question–where can i get me one of those giant wall paintings of some live pork butt? 🙂
.-= grace´s last blog ..upstaged =-.


Bonnibella April 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm

You went on a very lucky day! I wasn’t lucky enough to get any offal on the day I was there. The fish bone and chili looks amazing!
.-= Bonnibella´s last blog ..Thai Chili and Fish Sauce Moules – Mussels =-.


rowena April 6, 2010 at 1:32 am

I don’t blame P for not wanting to shell out 75 bucks for lips and assholes….for much much less you can get that in a can of spam.

On the other hand, what you paid for the pipe rigate sounds like a steal! The next time I’m feeling decandent, I may just pick up that 50€ jar of fois gras and deck out the box of pipe rigate (1€) with some of it plus pigs feet and bitter greens. You described it so darn convincingly.


Livin Local April 6, 2010 at 10:41 am

You had me at the bread with tapanade. What a meal! I know this restaurant is crazy famous, but being raised on chicken breasts, it just seemed a bit too out there. Your photos show that good food is always that … good food. Hmmmm, I may just have to give it a try.
.-= Livin Local´s last blog ..Asparagus and Shiitake Quiche =-.


Cookie April 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I’ve heard good things about this place and definitely wanna check it out as well!
.-= Cookie´s last blog ..Sunny’s Pistachio Poppy Bread =-.


Juliana April 6, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Wow, nice place, everything sure looks yummie!


Single Guy Ben April 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I love their spaghettini, and it’ll never go off the menu because it’s so popular! BTW, I just clicked on the listen now feature you have on each post and it’s so funny to hear the computerized guy read your posts! You should record your voice for it! (Hey, I might do that on my posts!) 😉
.-= Single Guy Ben´s last blog ..Special Eggs at Farmers Market =-.


Victor April 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

The Vitello Tonnato: Roasted Bone Marrow dish looks amazing! I’m hungry again, even though I just ate my lunch.
.-= Victor´s last blog ..Morocco’s Restaurant in San Jose =-.


Mrs. L April 8, 2010 at 1:34 pm

My husband and I have been wanting to go to Incanto every since we heard about the “Leg of Beast”. We’re just waiting to find a few other couples to go with us. We may have to go just the two of us after reading your post, the place sounds right up our alley!


Carolyn Jung April 16, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Love the marrow bones there. Nobody else presents them quite that way, split down the side horizontally. Looks so cave man-like, huh? And the taste is enough to make you swoon.
.-= Carolyn Jung´s last blog ..Them Bones, Them Bones =-.


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