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San Francisco: La Ciccia

291 30th Street , Phone: 415-550-8114
Closing day: Monday

Reviewed by: Tourmama from CA, review #3777

When: 2011

A touch of Sardinia in a San Francisco neighborhood. Wonderful food and a friendly staff made for a fantastic dining experience.

Directions: At the intersection of 30th St. and Church St. in upper Noe Valley

Bill had seen the menu posted in the window at this unassuming storefront restaurant, and was intrigued by the Sardinian headings on the menu. So he made a reservation, and we traveled to Sardinia in San Francisco for a delightful meal full of new taste sensations, accompanied by Sardinian wines. It is a small space, and on this Friday night was at full capacity when we arrived just before 7 pm. We were offered a seat at the small bar, as guests were still lingering at our window table (and by the time we finished our meal, we understood the reluctance to vacate!) The bartender asked if we would like a glass of wine while we waited, and we looked over an extensive wine list that included some totally unfamiliar Sardinian wines. We asked him to suggest something, and he poured us each a glass of a medium bodied, smooth and delicious Sardinian red wine (name started with M, but my memory of more than that disappeared as quickly as the wine.)

It was not long before the hostess seated us with a menu to explore, and our adventure began; we chose one "antipastusu" and one "primusu", along with our separate "segundusu". Ready to order when our waiter appeared, we were regaled with a list of nightly specials, and had to stop and regroup -- too many wonderful choices. But ultimately we passed on the antipasti of home cured prosciutto or burrata, in favor of an order of "Sardella schiscionera" -- Sardines with garlic, parsley, peporoncini, breadcrumbs and pecorino, and an order of "Malloreddus as sa Campidanese" - semolina gnocchetti with pork ragu and 12 month old pecorino.

The sardines were amazing -- moist and tender, with a sauce redolent of white wine, garlic, and Sardinian olive oil, with the crunch of breadcrumbs and piquancy of the peppers and pecorino. And the gnocchetti, while not the tender pillows that potato gnocchi were, were tiny bites of flavorful pasta in a rich meat sauce! Both were 5 star.

For my segundusu, I chose "pezza de Angioni a sa sapa" - seared lamb tenderloin tagliata drizzled with "saba" - grape must. This was cooked as requested - medium rare, and served over a mound of mixed roasted veggies - broccoli, cauliflower, escarole, carrots, and celery among others. It was heavenly, and the serving size was very generous. Bill had initially chosen "proccu cun cipudda a su zaffarnu" - pork loin with saffron onions - but when the waiter told us one of the daily specials was braised goat in a tomato and vegetable "stew," he changed his mind and ordered that. He was gifted with a large soup bowl of intensely flavored cubes of meat and braised vegetables, with a separate serving of a puree of potatoes and cauliflower. It was spectacular. It was amazing. It was REEEEEAAALY good. We each had a second glass of wine with our main course - chosen by the owner's wife - Bill's was a dark, dense red Sardinian wine; mine a Barbera that was lighter and fruity, and a perfect companion to the lamb.

We could/should have walked out the door right then and there, but a glance at the menu showed that one of the four "casu sa frutta e is druccisi" was a "truta de arrescottu" - Sardinian ricotta and saffron cake served with honey and toasted almonds. Well - how could we NOT share a serving? It was ambrosia for the gods, and for us mere mortals, too - the saffron was (I'm happy to say) an intriguing background flavor - while the predominant flavor was fresh lemon, combined with the ricotta, and drizzled with honey and almonds. At that point we were definitely two happy and sated diners! Dinner for the two of us, including two bottles of aqua con gas, two generous glasses of wine each, an espresso and a cappuccino totaled $160. And it was worth every cent.

And as a bonus, we enjoyed a brief chat with the hostess/owner's wife about the origins of the Sardinian language, and a couple of exchanges in Italian with her and the wait staff. It was great fun, and we felt like we had traveled to a new destination. We will return.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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