Bacci, tabacci e venere
Riduce tutti i uomini
"Bacchus (wine), tobacco and women
Reduce all the men
-an old Italian proverb
“Perbacco” is an Italian word to accentuate positive comments. It can also be an expression of pleasure and surprise, as well as a reference to Bacchus, God of Wine and “good times.” A fitting name for a ristorante so thoroughly steeped in the traditions of Italy, yet with a refreshingly modern feel and attitude. Perbacco introduces urban San Francisco to the full range of flavors found in the Italian regions of Piemonte and Liguria, with a touch of France by way of Provence.
-from the Perbacco site
Try as you might, you'll never get even one step ahead of The Missus, because she has you figured out through at least the year 2012...or so it would seem. The fourteenth of April was my birthday and as to just where we were going that day, was a secret to everyone but her, The Teen (formerly "The Kid" until this past March 31st), and the youngest Sister-in-law.
The youngest Sister-in-law hinted at it, but I didn't process the hint. So that evening, The Missus, The Teen and I piled into the car and headed Downtown. Where we going? I had no idea and right after we parked, we headed towards California Street.
Now was it going to be the Tadich Grill, the oldest restaurant still running in both San Francisco and California? Or was it to be Aqua? I stopped at each door, but The Missus kept going. Curiouser and curiouser, do I follow her down the rabbit hole? No need, we went to Perbacco and it's a good thing too, I don't want to deal with that Chesire Cat or the Queen of Hearts.
Perbacco is a wonderful restaurant, but be forewarned, the savory (it's not picante like it's Mexican counterpart) salsa verde that they serve with crostitini (bread sticks) will seek your clothing like a homing missile. Dip your crostitini and do not bring it towards you, but meet up with it over the plate or else you will wear it.
There is a wonderful decor there, but decor is the very last thing that I go to restaurants for. I'd gladly eat at a place that took over an non-renovated greasy spoon and left it as such, if the food were heavenly. Thank God this isn't the case, though the lighting is a little too dim in some sections.
I talked The Teen into ordering Cured Meats from the salumi. Which is comprised of lonza, culatello, lardo, coppa, and coppa picante. I had the cooked salumi plate which is comprised of mortadella, testa arrotolata, ciccioli, coppa cotta, testa, and fegatini d'anatra. Salumi plates have been the rage in San Francisco the past two years and nothing is better than cured meats that are made on the actual site. They don't serve the forgeries of Italian food that most supermarkets try to pass off as being Italian and they don't serve that old stuff that took the slow, slow boat from Genoa. Good gravy, the stuff just melts in your mouth, it's scary how much better something can be with just a little more work and care, with the freshest of ingredients.
For the second course, I had vitello tonnato, which was somehow more American in style, even though the taste was Italian. The slow-roasted veal was sliced thin like a carpaccio and like carpaccio, it was almost paper-thin. Again, you get the "melt in your mouth" effect. The tonnato or "tuna-ed" sauce had more of a lemon flavor than I have experienced in Italy. I'm not complaining, but I'm not certain if native Italians would necessarily like this dish in such an untraditional way.
The Teen had pappardelle, pasta ribbons (I believe they are homemade) with a short rib ragu. Again, the ragu is slow-roasted and this dish proves just why the world should follow the Slow Movement when it comes to food. There was no bone served with the dish, but you could tell that the meat was so tender that it fell off the bone.
For the third course, The Teen had beef short rib stracotto and like his pappardelle, this dish was fork tender and perfectly seasoned. He even loved the potato-parsnip puree and he pretty much hates all vegetables. I had the pork chops and Per Bacco understands that a perfect pork chop has just a touch of pink in middle. The fava beans that accompanied this dish were earthy and let's face, they were good, but I don't like fava beans (nor do I appreciate census taker's liver or chianti, th-th-th-th-plp).
The sole misfire for me was the pansotti, that The Missus ordered. It was pillowed pasta, stuffed with ricotta and I'm not sure what else, served with a butter sauce. Though it would be merely decent at any other restaurant, it was a dish that was way below everything else that they serve.
The deserts were on par with the rest of the menu, sublime and delicious. The waitstaff were friendly and attentive, not to mention, they save me the ordeal of enduring "Happy Birthday (To You)."