On Saturday, Mom and I day-tripped into San Francisco to give ourselves a break from all the bucolic beauty of Napa. We had also planned a birthday celebration dinner for me with my aunt, uncle, and cousin, who live out near San Jose. It took me a whole heck of a lot of online research to find a place I wanted to try out, and frankly, my choice was a little bizarre.
Our crew ended up at Incanto, an innovative, Italian, meat-centric restaurant in Noe Valley. When I chose this place, I had based my choice on the menu that had been online that day; of course, the menu changes each day, and when we got there, the menu options for me were... slim. It took about a half hour, complete with a complete explanation of the menu's foreign terms by our very patient server, for us all to decide what we wanted. But ultimately, we were quite happy with the food and the experience overall.
To start, we were given a heap of bread with a ramekin of chunky olive tapenade. From the herb-topped focaccia to the salted herbed breadsticks to the chewy white slices, this was an admirable bread plate. And the tapenade was a salty, toothsome break from the usual plate of olive oil.
Then came the appetizers. Mine was the wild greens and elderflowers; this was exactly as purported-- a mess of unusual greens, bitter and rough-textured, in a tangy vinaigrette.
Mom got the garden salad, which was a bit more interesting than the greens. Same concept, though: simple ingredients; vibrant, light dressing.
My uncle got one of the day's specials, which I can't for the life of my remember. I think it was some sort of soup? Or some kind of aspic-y creation? Regardless, he and my cousin, who shared it, enjoyed the little dish.
We also shared an order of olives for the table. This was a surprisingly large portion, though (with the exception of the big mama in the photo, which I snapped up immediately) the olives were tiny. Briny and flavorful, these hit the spot.
Then the entrees came. Both Mom and my aunt ordered the game hen with eggplant, chilli, and smoked capers. It was a huge portion of rustically prepared roast chicken, appealing and satisfying in the way only roast chicken can be.
My cousin ordered a pasta dish: Paccheri with duck sugo, sicilian olives, and savory. While it came out a little muted-looking (perhaps a garnish of snipped herbs might have brightened up the plate a little bit?), she enjoyed the flavor.
My uncle chose the pork shoulder with peaches and cippolini onions. While the pork comes out pink due to the preparation, "It's cooked!" our waiter promised. It was another admirably hearty portion, and it was well enjoyed.
My choice was an order of "Chantenay carrots and flowers." These were addictive and craveable roast carrots, soft but not mushy, caramelized on the outside, with flower garnishes that took on an almost fried texture. Truly incredible in a way that's surprising to anyone who's ever crunched on a bland carrot stick.
Oh, and did I mention they offer FREE unlimited house-carbonated sparkling water? If there's a quicker way to my heart as a sparkling-water-loving-diner, I don't know what it is. I only wish they'd provide water glasses that were bigger than the size of shot glasses so we didn't have to keep reaching for the carafe on the table every five minutes.
We had a dessert adventure planned (to say the least... stay tuned), so we skipped Incanto's dessert options. But overall, despite initial hesitation and skepticism from certain members of our dining party, we liked Incanto. If you're a fan of hearty, simple but unusual Italian food served in a bright, convivial atmosphere with friendly, caring servers, Incanto is for you. It can even please a vegetarian, under the right circumstances...
1550 Church Street, San Francisco