I discovered the joys of dining a la famiglia on (appropriately enough) a family trip to Italy last year. We relived this delightful way of dining at La Buca in Vancouver for my mum’s birthday in April. And now we have experienced a similar type of meal at the Sardinian sanctum of La Ciccia (291 30th Street, Noe Valley).
I’ve tried to write this meal up several times already and I keep getting stuck because it was just so great that I can’t find the right words to express it. Thanks to one of your own, local ’Hound susancinsf, we had one of those gastronomical experiences that happens when friends old and new, the stars, the chef and taste buds align. Susan and her husband are regulars here and we were treated like royalty by association, starting with glasses of prosecco that appeared in front of us at the bar as we waited briefly for “a better table.”
A bottle of Sardinian red ($37; forgot to note the name) and two samples of Sardinian whites led to a lovely glass of light, fruity slightly sweet wine for me. The fun continued as Susan led us through her favourites and we ordered freely, not knowing that the chef was going to be peppering us with add ons throughout the meal. We ordered the squid appetizer, the seafood salad, Sardinian flatbread, spaghetti with bottarga, the gnocchetti with pork ragu, the special macceroni with lamb sugo (which the chef later told us was his recreation of a childhood favourite), the boar entrée which came with a side of chickpeas that I suspect was gratis, a side of blackeyed peas that I know was complimentary, and a side of purple cabbage.
In the midst of this fest of food, the chef/owner appeared with a platter of house-made prosciutto that was the alpha and the omega of salty, air dried pork, buttery and not at all pongy. Susan had earlier lamented the fact that it was not on the menu that evening and her eyes lighting up as the plate arrived told the story in advance. As I said above, I don’t feel equipped to do this meal verbal justice. Each dish was delicious, well prepared, correctly seasoned and nicely presented, without fuss or furbelow. Nothing drew attention to itself and yet everything demanded concentration to identify nuances of flavour and texture – even the vegetable sides were outstanding in their own right.
If I had to pick favourites, I’d say the lamb and the boar, but there wasn’t one item I wouldn’t order again, even the bottarga which I found a touch fishy (not surprisingly) but this was the BIL’s favourite and the spaghetti was perfectly cooked. We opted for the three cheese sampler in lieu of dessert and it came with three spoons of honey, the standout being the cardoon. Just when we thought it was safe to down eating tools, the chef arrived with another offering, this time a digestif of mitro and a plate of petite almond cookies, the perfect end to a meal that spanned nearly three hours – we closed the place down, something Susan had never done here.
The wait staff were top notch, the owners Lorella and Massimiliano ebullient, welcoming hosts and the whole shebang came to only $185 for four before tip. You will notice there are no photos with this post – I was simply too engrossed in the food to take any. So you will have to go yourself to La Ciccia to see what I am trying to describe. And I recommend you take Susan with you -- thanks again to this fantastic Bay Area 'Hound.
See also the following links for all our other food-centric ramblings this trip if you're interested:
Tadich Grill http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573854
Blue Bottle http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573858
Lime Tree http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573860
Canteen dinner http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573864
Farmers Markets http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573868
Bar Tartine http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573872
Canteen and Café de la presse breakfasts http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573873
Bodega Bistro http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573874
BonBon Patisserie http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573877
Anchor Steam SFO http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573878