Il Borgo, (415)255-9108
500 Fell St.
San Francisco, CA
Cash only (but they have an ATM)
Located on the busy corner of Fell and Laguna, Il Borgo is an inviting retreat from the traffic of Fell St. Heavily decorated with wall paintings of Italian scenes, faux windows (complete with laundry line), and a streetlamp, it may be a little over-the-top for some, but we liked it.
On our visit, there was one vivacious woman working the front. Despite the business of the corner location, the interior was pleasantly quiet. Water and a basket of pretty good crumbly bread arrived; oil and vinegar are DIY at the table. The menu is fairly standard Italian fare, with a tiny wine list, and, not on the menu, beer and two each of red and white wines by the glass. At $6.50/glass, however, you're probably better off paying the ($8, I believe) corkage and bringing your own.
I started with the carpaccio ($8.50), a very good preparation of thinly-sliced raw beef, capers, arugula and shaved parmegan with a lemon wedge. The meat was paper-thin and tender, and full of flavor. This was one of the better carpaccio's I've had to date, and the price was quite reasonable. Sarah had the bruschetta, which was a typical, albeit tasty, preparation of toasty bread with (lots of) garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and fresh basil.
For entrees, I had the penne putanesca, a heady mixture of capers, anchovies and black olives in an alright good tomato sauce atop nicely al dente penne. I liked it well enough, but it's certianly not for everyone, as the aforementioned three ingredients impart a very strong taste to the dish. The anchovies were of the canned variety, unfortunately. Fresh fillets would have gone a long way to making this dish even better.
Sarah's fettucine "primavera," described as fettucine with mixed vegetables and procuitto in a light cream sauce was an odd preparation. If I hadn't known that's what she ordered, I would never have described it as a primavera. In a thick cream sauce (if this is a light cream sauce, I shudder to think what their heavier cream sauces are like!) were peas and tomatoes with bits of proscuitto, all atop a bed of fettucine. Although it was flavorful, it was not the light, vegetable-heavy dish I would have expected.
Service throughout was friendly and unpretentious, replete with "grazi" and "buon appetito." Our bill came to $72 for 2 starteers, 2 entrees and 4 glasses of wine, which struck me as a little on the high side. This is a cute little neighborhood joint, worth a check-out if you're in Hayes Valley.
Upon returning home and searching for info on Il Borgo I see I missed a Chowdown there a few months ago - d'oh!