I am starting a new thread on Buca Giovanni following Bamiss excellent post because that thread wondered off onto other topics.
Buca Giovanni is a diamond in the rough. It is has nothing to do with the old respected, and later declined, restaurant famous for its stewed rabbit, except for the cozy cellar atmosphere. It has been purchased by a very young chef from New York who is serving some of the best and most authentic Italian food in San Francisco. He is using high quality ingredients and serving-up some mighty tasty and very handsome food. The only reason I say it is in the rough is because the service, while not atrocious, does not come near reaching the experience of the food, which is very high indeed. This food is worthy of a far more professional treatment.
Our meal last Saturday evening ran $140 for two before tip. Dinner commences with the appearance of a very nice and fruity olive oil in a dish with two large yummy olives swimming in it, and a dish of excellent salt. Thankfully, no vinegary balsamic is poured in this nice oil.
We started with two antipasti: fresh alici (anchovies) fillets marinated in nice olive oil and lemon & a touch of hot peppers($13). They were just perfect and very fresh tasting. I have not often seen alici served simply like this since Sicily or Amalfi. The other antipasto was house-made sausage on a bed of cannellini beans infused with rosemary($12). The beans were properly cooked al dente and the sausage was delicious.
We followed the antipasti with a single order of risotto, which was on special for the evening, made of tellegio cheese and wild arugula ($15). Of note, the restaurant makes risotto to order for one, unlike most that require at least two. The risotto was perfectly prepared and the combination of the slightly bitter arugula and creamy and very bold tellegio was wonderful. The portion was certainly ample for sharing as a first course.
For the secondo, we shared a chefs signature ossobucca ($25) served on a bed of very creamy polenta, presented with a large rosemary twig sticking out the ample bone, which was capped with a nice gremolatta. The bone was filled with its delicious marrow. The polenta was actually like a soup made with milk and chicken broth (we asked, because it was terrific). The braising liquids were nicely accompanied to the whole.
We followed with a cheese plate of four or five cheeses ($15), all perfectly ripe and at room temperature, served with a very generous pour of 50 year old balsamic. One of the most generous cheese plates in any restaurant and the balsamic was a true treat. The cheese served as our dolce, so we cant comment on the deserts.
Our wine was a nice moderately priced ($30) Italian which I have forgotten the name of, followed by two very generous glasses of Barbera($10). The service was not up to par on this night, and our service was delayed sufficiently that we needed to order the Barbera to accompany the cheese.
Two antipasti, 1 primo and 1 secondo and a cheese course was ample for two. All in all this is a new entry on the SF dining scene that is worth following. Once they get the dining room straightened out, it will be on everyones A list. They will probably also need to get a valet service in this really hard to park district. For now, it is defiantly worth seeking out for the great food. You can check-out their menu and other info. on their nice website: