Saturday, August 20, 2011

Testaccio in San Francisco

San Francisco, August 19, 2011—
MY FAVORITE CUISINE, it will come as no surprise, is Italian — but that's not very specific, is it? It used to be that “Italian,” in the USA at any rate, was largely pasta, tomatoes, and garlic. Gradually we became aware of a distinction to be drawn between “Northern Italian” and simply “Italian.” More recently the amazing complex of regional Italian cuisines has become known. (The best introduction to the subject that I know of remains Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking, published most recently by Bonanza, I think.)

Well, I love all those regions. It's partly a weather thing, partly geographical, partly the mood. Each has its reasons for being the best. Last night we were in a restaurant I think of as Sicilian, because the owners are apparently from that magical island: but a glance at the menu revealed a strong Roman orientation, and I love cocina Romana too, especially for pastas and meat.

baccala.jpgAfter quite a good Martini at the bar, since it was Friday night after all, we sat down with a couple of friends and tucked in. Lindsey and I split a baccalà mantecata, not at all alla Veneto though properly whipped with olive oil and served on nice garlicky toast, and a supplí al telefono, tomato risotto croquettes with mozzarella; and then I went on to coda alla vaccinara, oxtail stewed in tomato, pancetta, and celery, with sautéed escarole on the side, and oh sweet Epicurus it was delicious; it took me right back to Testaccio, the Roman quarter specializing in rich, deep, meditative preparations of meat.
Alcamo Bianco, Firriato (Tràpani, Sicilia), 2009 (bone-dry, minerals, serious); Frappato, Tenuta del Nanfro ’09 (Sicilia)(forthcoming, fruity but reserved, solid)
54 Mint, 16 Mint Plaza, San Francisco; tel. 415.543.5100

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