Third time for us. Went with a couple of friends who wanted to try it.
The menu's been very different each visit. This time there were around 10 appetizers, only two primi (a pasta that doubles as the vegetarian entree (pet peeve) and an octopus risotto), three secondi. Appetizers sounded best and entrees sounded boring, but ...
- cardoons ($7): These were marinated in a strong vinaigrette, almost pickled, so I could hardly tell what they were. Nice as a salad but did not satisfy the cardoon craving spiked by the menu.
- shaved summer squash ($7): OK but not as good as Incanto's version.
- pork belly with lentils ($10): Great pork belly, lentils even better than Jeanty at Jack's. The one appetizer that really hit the mark.
- fritto misto ($12): This was the best dish of our other two meals, but this one was off. Over-battered, stuff stuck together, flavors of the items weren't distinct.
- quail with fennel sausage, rapini, and polenta (2 x $26): good quail, great sausage which went really well with the bitter rapini and rich polenta. Our friend thought the rapini were oversalted, we didn't.
- grass-fed veal (i.e. vitellone) with chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, and shell beans ($36 (!!)): perfectly cooked chop, ditto for the beans, topped with sauteed mushrooms. Really good though the elements could have been tied together better.
- sauteed yellowfin tuna with gremolata, caramelized onions, and roasted potatoes ($24): really good. The tuna was cooked properly, not done in that trendy sushi style.
- somebody's "bonnet" ($8): An amaretto bavarian (?) with a thin bottom crust and top glaze, in a puddle of espresso caramel. We really liked the lightness and the balance of bitter and sweet, our friends thought it wasn't sweet enough.
- dense chocolate cake with espresso gelato ($8): In fact was not a dense cake but more of a light brownie; gelato might have come from Sketch across the street. We liked it, but our friend who was craving dense chocolate cake was really disappointed.
With two bottles of Valle dell'Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria ($2 x $38) from the well-chosen all-Italian list, total for four before tip came to $261, so about $75 a head all told.
Our reaction was basically the same as our other two visits: mostly good to excelent food, but few of the dishes reached the Chez Panisse standard. For Italian we prefer Oliveto or Incanto; for the style of food Eccolo does, we prefer Cafe Rouge.