Top 3 Dishes & New Openings: November 2015

It’s been a month of intense travel — Paris to Cognac, then on to Charleston (more on all those trips in coming months). And with the holidays, it’s been about returns to old favorites and comforting meals with family at places like Boxing Room, B Star and Belga. Here are my top 3 November dishes and new openings, some from newcomers, others from established restaurants.

La Marcha's Paella
La Marcha’s Arroz Negro Paella

1. La Marcha’s Arroz Negro Paella

Chefs Sergio Emilio Monleón and Emily Sarlatte (of mobile catering business Ñora Cocina Española) opened La Marcha in downtown Berkeley in October. There are plenty of tapas (25, to be exact) and everything I tried was good, even if I prefer tapas at places like Aaxte in SF. But where La Marcha excels is in filling paella platters that easily feed a few (or plenty to take home), whether a traditional Paella Valenciana ($28) with rabbit, duck, snail, green beans and rosemary or a vegetarian Paella Huertana ($25) laden with kabocha squash, red torpedo onions, chickpeas, purple cauliflower and saffron.

But Arroz Negro ($32) is where it’s at. I’ve had squid ink-laced paella before and sometimes it’s prettier visually than it is flavorful. But this saffron-tinged paella is packed with clams, juicy fennel sausage, piquillo peppers, fresh peas and anchovy breadcrumbs with a generous dollop of uni aioli on top. It’s a play in textures and savory-fresh flavors. And it tastes even better with Spanish wines and sherries.

Caputo's pecorino flan
Caputo’s pecorino flan

2. Caputo’s Pecorino Flan

In a roomy, Embarcadero dining room that looks out to the Bay and recalls suburban days in Orange County or New Jersey in size and look, Caputo thankfully isn’t out of place in SF. Certainly we didn’t need another Neapolitan, wood-fired pizza, Italian restaurant but Caputo does Italian dishes and pizzas well. Given its proximity to the ballpark, it also provides an elevated option for tourists and game attendees.

Pizzas ($16-20) are good but antipasti/small plates shine, from an eggplant caponata agrodolce ($8) — agrodolce being an Italian sweet and sour sauce — sweetened by raisins and saba, to charred broccolini ($8) in lemons and capers. But it is pecorino flan ($12) that is luxurious and comforting, savory with crispy leeks, accented by a charred tomato sauce.

Delarosa’s maccheroncini pomodoro

3. Delarosa’s Maccheroncini Pomodoro

The bar area at the new Delarosa
The bar area at the new Delarosa

Delarosa has been one of my “regular” go-tos in the Marina since it first opened in 2010. Roman-style pizza, antipasti, craft beer and well-executed craft cocktails — with all-day hours — makes it a weekday lunch gem. Last month, they just opened a downtown location in Yerba Buena with soon-to-come outdoor seating in the unique alley under the gaze of the 1914 St. Patrick Church and the modern Contemporary Jewish Museum.

The bustling, new Delarosa feels warmer than the original location with long, communal tables and a cool bar marked by oranges and whites. The menus are virtually the same — including an offering of Italian amari and grappa — which means you can order delicious margherita burrata or spicy fennel sausage pizzas ($15 each) or pleasing antipasti and salads. I feel a bit like a kid again with maccheroncini pomodoro ($14), a baked pasta dish topped with strips of chicken parmigiana. It’s a huge portion and tastes as if Mom cooked me up a hearty meal.