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401 Columbus Ave. San Francisco
Cuisine: Venetian cicchetti
Pluses: Wonderful new tastes, good selection of wine by the glass.
Minuses: The original chef-partner has left.
Price: Small plates from $4-$12
Overview: Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
The owners of the successful Enrico's on Broadway and a nearby cafe owner opened Tavolino, a wine bar and Venetian snack venue less than a year ago. Cicchetti are the Venetian version of Spanish Tapas - lots of small plates of savory dishes that add up to one great meal. As of this writing, half the partnership left and so the future of this popular venue is up in the air. However, the original chef de cuisine David Stephens is staying on for now, so the food shouldn't change dramatically for the time being. The look of this beautiful pie-shaped venue is enhanced by large windows facing the heart of North Beach, meaning people watching is a fun pastime, while you wait for your little tastes. Turtle-back light fixtures, lots of warm wood and an Italian-tiled floor make this a stylish but comfy place. There are about 25 choices of hot and cold cicchetti including the fabulous anchovy-stuffed olives, crispy fried. Try the little sandwiches, the seafood risotto, the brandade (salt cod spread) marinated sea bass, fried but served cold with pine nuts and pickled onions or the duck and polenta. Beef tenderloin or the succulent pork loin will also satisfy. The wine list is very inviting with many wines from the Veneto and other regions of Italy. The desserts are great especially the crisps, housemade ice cream or berry concoctions.