Jul 2006: In my last Newsletter, I wrote of my five favorite restaurants in San Francisco; namely, Boulevard, Slanted Door, COCO500, A16, and Rubicon, all of which are essentially destination restaurants—where you would take someone from out of town. Here are three more.
Here are three more; namely, local restaurants for you and your friends — hopefully where you can walk in without reservations, especially if you go before the crowd. NOPA in San Francisco; PIZZAIOLO in Oakland; and FISH in Sausalito. Still an all-time favorite that I wrote up earlier this year is INSALATA’S in San Anselmo.
NOPA is on the corner of Divisidero and Hayes you can call after 2 p.m. the same day to reserve a table 864-8643. Although it’s really hard to remember the name NOPA before you go, you definitely will not forget it once you’ve eaten there. That’s because is such a great San Francisco scene with fabulous food and service. (Nopa means north of the Pan Handle area). The atmosphere is lively. There are plenty of seats for eating at the bar or at the communal table but the best is to sit at the counter in front of the rotisserie/grill and the wood-burning oven. You will be able to watch Lawrence expediting as well as watch the attractive cooks hustling to get the food out. Everyone working there is so proud of their new successful restaurant and so they should be.
The Flatbread we had with of Herbed Ricotta, Zucchini, and Serrano Ham is unforgettable. Lawrence gets only the best local and hopefully organic (whatever that means nowadays) ingredients as can be proven by the pork, lamb and beef. The Spit-Roasted London Broil with Lemon Potatoes and Salsa Verde was so good; and the Grilled Pork Chop with Cranberry Beans and Braised Greens was so juicy and delicious. I always order the Wood Baked Runner Beans with Feta and Oregano; and I loved the Mediterranean Fish Stew with Saffron, Fennel and Rouille. (Click here for a recipe that is very similar with Aioli instead of Rouille). The Rotisserie Chicken (with an herb mixture under the skin) is really popular; as to is the House-Ground Burger with French Fries and Harissa Aioli.
Last week I went to PIZZAIOLO on Telegraph Avenue between 51st and 49th in Oakland. It was so much fun! First of all, I shared a pizza and meatballs with Amy, a former student of Tante Marie’s, and secondly her fellow student Deb was cooking on the line. Pictured here are Charlie, one of the owners, who made us the best pizza of Summer Squash with Pounded Parsley and Garlic Oil; Deb who made us a delicious starter of Oven-Roasted Eggplant with Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella di Buffala; and Amy eating the Blossom Bluff Peaches from the Wood Oven with Vanilla Ice Cream. It was a great fun experience in an atmosphere of real food lovers.
The best thing about going to FISH in Sausalito is eating great fresh (hopefully local) cooked really well outdoors near the boats and the water sitting at picnic tables and drinking beer, ice tea, or lemonade from Mason jars. In May when I went with my niece Mandy and her husband, Brad, who were here for a wedding, we had Deep-Fried Squash Blossoms that were to die for (as they say); Grilled Fresh Sardines on a White Beans; and Bay Shrimp Tacos. I’ve also had a fabulous Fish Stew, and watched lots of orders of Fish and Chips go out to happy customers. After FISH, it’s a must to go to Tiburon or Larkspur for Gelato.