Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
737 Diamond Street
San Francisco, 94114
Cuisine: classic homey Italian with a few Californian touches
Pluses: a friendly and warm atmosphere
Minuses: the final bill might be a bit more than you would expect
Don't Miss: risotto of the day
Prices: on the high side of moderate; Pastas are $12-$15; Entrees are $18-$24
Part “Big Night” part neighborhood charm, anyone could feel comfortable at Bacco in Noe Valley. Around the corner from lively 24 th Street, Bacco is located just enough out of the way to offer a quiet neighborhood feel, and the idea that you have discovered something special.
You will most likely be greeted at the door by a friendly owner who will guide you through the brightly lit room to your quiet table. The menu is pretty traditional but if you have any questions the affable and knowledgeable staff is eager to help. This is one restaurant where the staff really seems to care, and they will go to extra lengths to insure you have a good meal. Ask a question and they will give you an honest answer, not just one they think will make you happy. Everyone at Bacco takes pride in their work and they are justly proud of their restaurant.
Pan seared stuffed calamari is just one of the dishes that deserves this pride. None of the rubbery pencil eraser qualities so often associated with the dish are present in this version which stuffs the tiny squid with loads of fresh herbs, coats them in a thin veil of crisp bread crumbs, and pairs them with a creamy bean puree and a few leaves of bitter radicchio. But the real star of the menu is the daily changing risotto. Bacco is one of the few restaurants that actually makes risotto to order, it might take 20 – 25 minutes to make, but the wait is worth it. Tender rice with just a bit of textural resistance is infused with the flavors of the surrounding ingredients; in my case it was shrimp, mussels, zucchini and a mere suggestion of saffron lending only a golden hue and a fleeting mysterious ambrosial quality to the shellfish flecked rice. The risotto helping was so generous I could easily have shared it with my dining companion.
Other dishes come off without a hitch; beets, goat cheese and candied nuts come together in a salad that seems almost as popular as Caesar these days. A special of sea bass is cooked just right, and paired with a flavorful tomato, olive, and caper sauce adding spark and liveliness to the mild fish. A side dish of broccoli rabe is sautéed and tossed with garlic and piquant chili, making sautéed spinach seem like a dull country bumpkin in comparison.
Creativity makes itself apparent in the dessert selection. Bacco has taken traditional Italian desserts and crafted them in a new light. A mango and raspberry panna cotta is a Rothko painting on a plate; a tropical sunset of the golden hued sweet and floral mango contrasting with the sharp and tangy rose colored raspberry. The texture, what can often make or break panna cotta was like that of sour cream – rich, smooth, and silken, thick enough to stand on its own, and addictive enough to draw you back for more and more despite your best efforts.
Leaving Bacco is a bit like leaving home, they seem so happy to have you visit and sorry to see you go, but while you are there they will feed you well and do everything in their power to make sure you enjoy your stay.