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SF: North Beach Restaurant - anything worth the price?


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SF: North Beach Restaurant - anything worth the price?

rworange | | Jul 28, 2008 02:11 PM

Zagat guide in hand, North Beach Restaurant (NBR) was one of the first restaurants I tried when I moved from the East Coast. That visit did two things

- Gave me a permanant disdain for Zagat recs (there were a few other clinkers)
- Made me a member of the East Coast Italian Whiners ... no good SF Italian like on the EC

HOWEVER ... some recent posts by a NBR fan have me wondering. Maybe classic Italian-American dishes aren't their thing. Maybe I ordered wrong.

The dishes the poster reccommended were the shrimp risotto, sweetbreads and something else I forget.

I mean ...yikes ... the thought of ordering sweetbreads at NBR gives me the vapors ... but maybe the are GOOD and one of the dishes to order.

Looking around on the web at NBR fan reviews I've gleaned this (some without confirmation)

- They overnight the mozzarella from Italy
- They have a Prosciutto Room where the house made ham is aged up to nine months.
- They have a good wine list
- The owner has his own winery Petroni Vineyards estate wines including California’s 1st Brunello ‘Poggio Alla Pietra’

Positive mentions of the following dishes
- Pasta Della Casa - Prosciutto, Mushrooms and Veal with Chardonnay Wine
- Homemade Cannelloni
- Homemade Gnocchi Piemontese
- Petrale Sole
- Veal
- Spaghetti carbonara

Not many like the eggplant parmesan ... a definate skip.

The website emphasizes they are Tuscan with dishes like ...
- Farro dalla Garfagnana
- Farinata da Lucca

There are some ancient Chronicle reviews ... but I'm guessing not much has changed at this place.

I do agree with Bauer's thumbs down on the Antipasto Toscano for Two - Home-Cured Prosciutto, Salame, Cheese, Marinated Calamari, Veal Shank, Beans and Salsa Verde

I still clearly remember those awful calamari and beans decades later and his description is spot on. This plate is now a heart-stopping $34. I don't remember what else was on the plate, only that IT WASN"T A REAL EAST COAST ANTIPASTO ... where's the pickled peppers?

Some of what Bauer liked ... in 1998 & 1996

- sand dabs
- chicken al Mattone
"Chicken under a brick ... no one does it better. It's first marinated in garlic, rosemary and olive oil, seared to seal in the juices and then roasted in the oven under a brick. It comes out crisp, moist and infused with flavor"
- warm zabaglione

If you look at the reviews, the dishes to avoid are there ... all of which I ordered. He says "if you know what to order you can have one of the best meals to be found in the city."

Don't know if that is still true, but I'm guessing little has changed at NBR.

And before anyone trots out how the latest trendy Italian restaurant is better ... probably ... but there is a comment in Bauer's review that strikes me as true. He talks about how NBR was making its own proceitto, sausages, pastas and other dishes before they were a twinkle in the eye of anyone else ... before it was fashionable.

IMO, all the fancy new 'cold-cut' and sausage makers ... despite their heritage-raised meat ... just don't even come close to some of the old-time sausage makers. No one, for example ... no one makes a better Italian sausage than Molinari's.

So maybe there is something at North Beach that may be overlooked ... but don't be shy about mentioning what specifically to skip ... which may be all the other desserts.

At those prices, hit and miss doesn't do it.

North Beach Restaurant
1512 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133