Bird brain, pork tongue, and tuna heart, oh my!
If you haven’t already heard, Incanto’s Chef Cosentino is known for bringing attention to what most people think of as the “undesirable” parts of an animal by basically throwing them in the diner’s face. The menu is splattered with all sorts of offal, ranging from the tame (sweetbreads) to the extreme (slow-cooked duck head, split in half). Sure, since Cosentino is a proponent of using all parts of the animal there are still plenty of options for the not-so-daring diner: duck leg, sardines, pasta with pork ragu, etc… But, if you’re looking to throw caution to the wind and challenge your preconceived notions of what’s edible and appetizing, Incanto is your spot.
However, while the chef’s goal is to show diners that those unusual animal parts can be delicious, just because an item on the menu is crazy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be good. The slow-cooked duck head and neck confit is a perfect example. Sure I ate an eyeball and sucked the meat off of a beak for the first time, which was frankly a bit thrilling, but the dish itself was essentially duck confit with more bones, less meat, more hassle, and not enough salt. In the future, I’ll just stick with leg.
The pork tongue with cannellini beans and a rustic salsa verde was a step in the right direction – seasoned properly, chewy but not rubbery – but, still not a home run.
And then came the pastas…
The PIPE RIGATE pasta (giant tubes) with trotters, enormous chunks of foie gras, and perfectly portioned dates was an instant knockout. I especially loved the decision to serve absurdly large-cut pasta with foie gras in bites 4x the size of anything you commonly run into. It wasn’t sophisticated or out-of-the-box, but it was perfectly rustic, hearty, and completely captivating. The SPAGHETTINI with cured tuna heart, egg yolk, and parsley was like taking a bite right out of the ocean – an uncomplicated dish with a distinct, very pronounced fishy flavor that is sure to impress.
If you’re buying by the bottle, the wine list is extensive. Like, curl up next to the fire on a rainy day and read that list for hours kind of extensive. But the staff is well-versed in wine and can easily point you in the right direction. And they serve each glass with a wine tag, listing the name of the wine, year, etc… so that even after knocking a few back you remember what you’re drinking.
Finally, the ambiance of Incanto, with its cozy-but-not-too-intimate seating, warm lighting, and overall lack of pomp and circumstance, really conveys the feeling of “friendly neighborhood restaurant.” And, after chatting with me and thoughtfully answering all of my foodie questions in the middle of rush, it was clear that Chef Cosentino’s approachable, affable demeanor embodies the same vibe. He might be playing ball with the big boys (The Food Network and celebrity chefs), but he’s still warm to every guest that walks in his door.
Because I feel like I still need to be totally convinced that offal is truly an overlooked gem (ha! Who would have thought of testicles as a “gem?”), I’ll be at their annual head-to-tail dinner (5 courses that explore every crevice of an animal), ready to bite down on whatever weird, disgusting parts and pieces the kitchen throws at me.
1550 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94131