Two years ago I played hookie for a week from Catskill Maison Bed and Breakfast during ski season and went to San Francisco. While I was there I had the treat of dining at Incanto, Chris Cosentino’s offal centric Italian gem hidden in the Noe Valley section of the city. When I dined there Chris was known but he wasn’t a “celebrity chef” at least not to the extent he is now. I ordered every piece of offal on his menu (disclaimer: pork is a food group for me and Cosentino swears by the pig, and if you read this blog you will figure out that offal and pasta are my two favorite things in the whole world!). I had the pleasure of speaking to Chef Cosentino for quite a spell after dinner (being New Yorkers we closed the place down) and I told him that his restaurant gave me one of my best meals EVER, and coming from me (a self proclaimed foodie from NYC who has been to many of the “heavy hitters that this city has to offer), that’s a compliment because I can be quite critical.
When I found out I was going back to SF this past April needless to say, the first reservation I made was for Incanto. I was hesitant, first because I made it for a Saturday night and I thought that service was going to be compromised, and second because Chris has become a hot hot hot commodity of a chef (and sometimes quality of food from a chefs kitchen is inversely proportionate to a chefs level of fame). Well, I’m pleased to report that I was blown away AGAIN! This restaurant is still one of the best EVER and a must must must go to if you have a penchant for homestyle, rustic, peasant Italian cooking. The flavor and texture profile that Cosentino puts together is not far from genius! I could go on and on about his dishes but let me just point out some highlights (yes we ordered about 10 things off of the menu that night and it was only 3 of us dining).
Venison Liver Bruchetta – OMG OMG OMG, super rich, super crunchy and smooth and salty and yummy!
Hot Mess – a concoction of trotters, foie gras, fresh local strawberries and jam – ok what sick freak pairs trotters with strawberries…and it really works, it hits all parts of your palate!
Pasta with snails and snout (pork snout) – not for the faint of heart (literally and figuratively) – this dish was almost even too rich and heavy for me…almost. It was so decadent, but honestly I was glad to have the pasta with tripe en brodo (broth) with spring peas and leeks and herbs as a chaser…that dish was super delicate.
I think that the ultimate surprise (and the next time I go to SF I pray this is on the menu) is the pasta with tuna heart with hot pepper flakes with raw egg in the middle – rich and light, spicy and creamy and crunchy and AMAZING!!! (Sorry chef I know I didn’t do this dish justice)…trust me, this dish works on every level!
Cosentino also has a cured meat stand at the Ferry Terminal Boccalone – I had a cone of all sorts of pig parts, and I had my cone custom made…great, but honestly I live in cured pork central (near Arthur Ave in the Bronx), so except for the fact that it was impeccably cured and the meat was properly sourced I get really good salumi here in NY.
All in all, as soon as I know I’m heading to SF again once again the first thing I’m going to do is make my reservation at Cosentino’s restaurant, great food, great wine, great service and great company BRAVO!…did I mention that he still is expediting in his kitchen on a Saturday night despite his fame and fortune? That is a testament to just how passionate he is about what he puts on the plate! Go Chris…Yes I admit I’m a Cosentino groupie LOL!