I’ve heard a lot of good things about Perbacco, and by some standards, it probably makes the list of best Italian restaurants in San Francisco. Therefore, when the BBE deal came up for Barbacco, which is the more casual trattoria from the same team located next door, I thought it would be a great way to see for myself if the praise was deserved. It was a bustling Friday evening when we arrived, so we still had to wait about 20 minutes. The restaurant is not very big, but with carefully placed mirrors along half the walls, it gives the illusion of more space. When we got seated, it felt very cramped so much so that we could totally hear the conversations going on either side of us. It was not the most conducive environment for an intimate dinner, but Pdho and I were hungry so food was our focus, not one another.
There was a selection of different cured meats including salami, prosciutto, and a headcheese style patty. It was served with a variety of different breads and some pickled vegetables. A similar dish is listed on 7X7’s 100 Things to Try Before You Die but from Perbacco, so I was expecting to be wow’ed, but the reality is that it was okay. The headcheese one was probably the most interesting, but generally speaking, this salami misti was rather average.
Arancini is essentially a risotto croquette filled with braised pork, mozzarella and peas. I was really expecting a lot, and although it was good, I was a little bit underwhelmed.
We ordered a trio of bruschette which included one Truffled Lardo and two of the Duck Liver Pate with balsamic onion marmellata. These were pretty good. The Truffled Lardo was sinfully delicious with the subtle flavor of truffle oil. The marmellata was very interesting. It added a nice sweetness to the duck liver which really already had some great flavor on its own.
The red and yellow beets came with some Gorgonzola dolce latte, toasted almonds and herb vinaigrette. I thought the beets were a little bit bland, but I think it was the Gorgonzola flavor that really torpedoed the dish for me. I’m really not a fan of Gorgonzola.
The squid was braised and served with tomato, chili, garlic and a spicy pan grattato. This dish was not very good. It tasted very plain.
These Sicilian meatballs were served with some braised chard and a tomato sugo. Again, I really like meatballs, but I think these were mixed with raisins and pine nuts, so it added some flavors and textures that confused me. It was interesting, but somehow I couldn’t get myself to like it. Even the tomato sugo couldn’t save the dish, because it found to be rather bland.
The Brussels Sprouts were fried with capers, anchovy and a shallot-red wine vinaigrette. It was okay, but nothing really special.
For some reason, I can’t really remember much about the panna cotta, but considering how the other dishes turned out, I can only assume the dessert wasn’t any better than the appetizers and entrees.
All in all, I have to admit I was not very happy with the meal. I don’t know if we didn’t order the right dishes, but nothing really ended up tasting very good. I found it so odd, because I had heard such good things. One thing to note, is that we didn’t order a pasta dish (which is normally a prerequisite for an Italian restaurant), but I guess I felt like we should keep the meal light on carbs. When I looked at our neighboring diner’s pasta, it looked pretty tasty. Nevertheless, even though the lack of raving reviews dulls my excitement for Perbacco, I would still like to give it a try sometime to see if the original is better than its sister.
220 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111
PAFO Ratings for Barbacco:
Price 2½ stars
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars