Top Tastes, rather than a list of all-time favorites (another thing altogether), are among the best eats since my last newsletter, often from new openings. Many dont make the cut, being a revisit previously written about or simply not as stand-out as dishes mentioned.
Though I was in Mexico half of the last two weeks, I was able to eat at a number of new spots, like the disappointing Locavore in Outer Mission. It was a 20 minute wait to get our order taken – it only happened then because we walked up to someone and asked them to take our order; then another 20 minutes from the time we requested our bill, plus mediocre food out of the five dishes I tried, except for a nicely done vegetarian dish of Cranberry Beans, Delicata Squash, Rapini ($14) topped with a poached egg and breadcrumb salsa. Allowing for opening week hiccups and grateful for the manager’s round of free wine due to our initial service lapse (though it service did not improve after that), with the amount of restaurants I visit in a week, there just wasn’t enough here to draw me back a second time.
Then there were low-key new spots that satisfied overall but didn’t necessarily produce an overwhelming dish, like months-old Viva Goa, an Indian eatery on Lombard Street with gracious staff, fluffy naan and heartwarming Chicken Xacuti ($9.99), a traditional Goan curry with fresh coconut, spices, white poppy seeds, red dried chilies. Though I heard raves about their Goan Fish Curry ($11.99), to me it tastes like semi-bland tomato paste. I’d go with the Xacuti. Loved their rice pudding with cardamom and shaved pistachios… and their truly sweet staff.
Or there’s the relaxed friendliness of Italian-American Pescara on Fillmore, a new spot where a heaping plate of Spaghetti Bolognese ($9.50) is the equivalent of a couple meals in one.
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UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA, SoMa Yes, the hype was huge upon the opening of this beloved New York institution from pizzaiolo Anthony Mangieri who left NY and moved to SF. He re-opened his NY institution, Una Pizza Napoletana, on a mellow SoMa street.
As in NY, Una Pizza is a one-man show because though Mangieri has staff, he solely crafts each pizza, which explains the no take-out policy, long waits at the door, then another long wait to get your pies. For these reasons alone, I would never be able to frequent Una Pizza, but when I go, I am rewarded with doughy heaven. With only five vegetarian pies available, each is a variation of cheese, tomatoes, maybe with basil or sea salt. They come out almost soupy with runny buffalo mozzarella or olive oil but thick, blistered crust holds it up, even if knives are way too dull to cut through the crust.
Due to the hand-crafted nature, medium-sized pizzas are pricey at $20 each, but quite filling. Mangieri’s Margherita is lovely, though I would go to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana more often (and easily) for one of those.
Where I was wowed (besides Mangieri’s incomparable dough) was with his brilliant Filetti pizza. Fresh cherry tomatoes dot the pie, soaking in impeccable buffalo mozzarella, accented by garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, sea salt. The garlic stays with you in a cheesy, dreamy haze for the rest of the night.