You know that "...Really?" segment of SNL's weekend update? That's exactly how I feel about this place...
People wait outrageously long to get a table here, and it's always packed? Really?
40 minutes to get drinks, and even longer for 2 small plates? Really?
$6 for 2 slices of bread with some beans and pancetta on top? And it wasn't even seasoned correctly. Really?
You're going to charge me for bread? Really?
I'm sure I'm going to hear about this one, but I just don't get it. To me this is the most overrated restaurant I've been to in SF. Everyone raves about it, but why? Is it because they have such an extensive cocktail menu? Okay I'll admit, their cocktails are really fantastic, and I would definitely swing by here on my way home for drinks...if there was anywhere to sit.
But really what it comes down to for me is the food. The food is just ok - it seems like there is consistently a problem with the execution and seasoning of almost every dish I try. The bruschetta was underseasoned (if you're not going to use salt in the beans, don't skimp so much on the pancetta!), the squid ink risotto was overcooked and needed acid (the calamari was far too tough), the cauliflower was, again, underseasoned. And when they say small plates, they mean smaaaaaaaall. I'm not a big person, and it doesn't take a lot to fill me up, but the portions (of the small plates, obviously not the pizza or entrees) are laughable. The quality of the food is 3 stars max. And when you factor in how long you have to wait to get a table (I've been there 4 times, not even at peak hours), how slow the service is, and how little choice there is on the menu, it definitely knocks it down a peg.
The sole exception to this is the pizza, which is nothing short of incredible. I've tried the margharita with burrata and wild mushrooms (we customized our pizza), and it really took me by surprise. The thin crust was crispy but soft at the same time, the tomato sauce was spicy but not overpowering, and c'mon, who doesn't like burrata and wild mushroom? Delicious.
I would would come back here for drinks and a pizza, but that's it. I've given the rest of the menu enough chances to live up to the hype, but unfortunately, it consistently falls short. Bottom line, if I'm going to spend this kind of money on Italian food, I'm going to Delfina or SPQR.
1199 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110