Perbacco’s Little Sister Debuts

At Barbacco, you're spoiled for choice—and probably pretty confused, looking at the 10-section menu (plus desserts and drinks) and trying to decipher Italian terms such as latte stagionato (that's "aged milk," i.e., cheese). But with delectable small plates and interesting wines available as a taste or enough to share, you'll enjoy testing the options, hounds say. It's more casual than its older sibling, Perbacco, but the stylishly renovated space is plenty nice enough for an informal night out.

"Barbacco falls in the same food-ecology niche as Pizzeria Delfina: informal, counter seating, slightly more expensive, no pizzas, but a good change of pace, young financial district types instead of Mission techy gentry," observes Thomas Nash.

Here you'll find what Robert Lauriston says are "the best Brussels sprouts ever," fried in duck fat with anchovies and capers. "More like chips than a vegetable," comments ourswimmer, who still agrees they're spectacular.

A selection of the house-made salumi is available in two sizes; its contents vary but if you're lucky you'll get ciccioli, which is like Sicilian rillettes. The duck liver pâté bruschetta also gets top marks. If you like head cheese, the testa here is awesome, says Robert Lauriston. And for a fun starter, check out the pork-stuffed olives.

Robert also was wowed by the luscious quick-braised squid, while RichInMV loved the homey comfort of the polpette (meatballs) and the mussels with njuda, chile, and garlic. Sopping up the sauce on that one with toast is really the best part, he says. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and anchovy is first-class, says Thomas Nash.

Lunch is a good time to go for the fennel-crusted porchetta with grape agrodolce. "As a sandwich it was as incredible as Roli Roti's," Thomas Nash says. Another hound reported the dinner version being dry; according to DezzerSF's inside source, that may be because it's roasted in the morning.

The wine list offers great value (Robert Lauriston recommends the $33 Becker-Landgraf 2007 Pinot Noir) and drinking options from a 3-ounce taste to a 6-ounce glass to 250-milliliter or 500-milliliter carafes.

Incidentally, Ruth Lafler observes that rather than being distracted by running Barbacco, Perbacco is "firing on all cylinders these days.... there seems to be some kind of synergy going on."

Barbacco [Financial District]
230 California Street, San Francisco
415-955-1960

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My weekend trip in review. Thanks so much for the great advice and suggestions!

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