Monday, May 29, 2017

Delivery from Pizzeria Delfina

Delfina.  Definitely a San Francisco institution.

When I first moved to San Francisco, I remember a friend telling me that the Delfina Restaurant was his favorite place for a nice, but casual, night out with his wife.  I remember going once or twice myself, and liking the pasta, but not having a particularly strong opinion otherwise.  My hipster group of peers of course frequented Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission, long waits on the cold sidewalk no hinderance.  I joined in from time to time, and enjoyed the pizza, but never quite understand the hype.  I was personally happy when a second Pizzeria opened in Pacific Heights, with substantially shorter lines, and, uh, more appealing sidewalk ambiance.  Since then, the restaurant group has seen great success and expansion, with more pizzeria locations in Palo Alto and Burlingame, and Locanda, a second restaurant in San Francisco, focused on pasta (which I have another friend who says is his favorite place in the city).

My strongest memory of Delfina however isn't of any of the restaurants, it is of attending a cooking demo at Macy's by the chef/owner, Craig Stoll, where he talked about the restaurant, told amazing stories, and cooked 3 of the most famous dishes.  I was so impressed, I wrote it up on my blog, and vowed to go to Delfina for dinner immediately (which, uh, I never did).  But the memory of those dishes, a seemingly simple salad, basic spaghetti, and panna cotta (seriously, probably still the best panna cotta I've ever had ... and I've had a lot) remained strong.

Fast forward several years.

One afternoon, the admin for our team sent me a message, saying she'd mistakenly ordered too much food from Pizzeria Delfina.  I'm not entirely sure how this happens, but, I was happy to receive the message, and pass it on to my colleagues.  And then I got pulled into a conversation, and wasn't able to go running for the food.  By the time I got to the food, a mere 15 minutes later, the large pile of pizza had been decimated.  There were tons of pizza boxes, all completely empty, on the table.  Doh.  Pizza in general doesn't last long around my office, but, pizza from somewhere like Pizzeria Delfina really doesn't last long.  I learned my lesson: get things for me first, then tell others!

Anyway, the masses all seemed to have gone for the pizza, leaving behind TONS of salad and appetizers (including meatballs and burrata), so I still got some Delfina food.  And I remembered that salad as shockingly good from the demo ...
Insalata Triocolore.
"Arugula, radicchio & endive salad w/ grana padano cheese & lemon vinaigrette."

Insalata Triocolore.  Such a classic Delfina (and many Italian restaurants) salad.  So deceptively simple, but oh so good.  The salad of three colors.

Yes, it is just a mix of three colors of leaf vegetables (green arugula, purple radicchio, and pale yellow endive), topped with grana padano, and served with lemon vinaigrette.  No other veggies.  Nothing for crunch.  Boring sounding dressing.

This salad shouldn't be great.  But it really is.

The arugula is my favorite element, so peppery.  I'm not sure where Delfina sources arugula from, but this is quality stuff.  Then there is the endive, chopped into slices, juicy and refreshing.  The radicchio, julienned, which provides a different sort of bitterness than the arugula.  Mix them together, and you have a blend that not only looks great, but also has perfectly complimentary tastes.  For a base of leafy vegetables, this is far more interesting than most.

The cheese I actually didn't love, as the shreds were huge, and the nutty flavor from the grana padano somewhat dominated the eating experience.

And then the dressing.  Simple lemon vinaigrette.  I'm definitely a creamy dressing type, and rarely like vinaigrettes.  This dressing looked like nothing more than olive oil, honestly.  And, it isn't much more than olive oil actually (olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemon, shallot, and black pepper), but wow, it was good.  And somehow, that dressing just went so amazingly well with the leafy vegetable mix.  I'm clearly not the only one who loves this basic dressing, as Delfina even sells it by the bottle now.

What this salad proves is that sometimes you don't need more than a few simple high quality ingredients, well chosen for their complimentary nature.

I believe this was the large, family-style portion, designed to serve 10 people, for $85.

At the demo, I had an enhanced version, the Insalata di Campo, with the same base mix of greens and cheese shreds, but it also included pancetta and walnuts, which added crunch and an additional salty component.  I preferred that version, but, this basic salad was also fabulous.
Neapolitan Meatballs in Sugo.
"Pork, beef & veal meatballs w/ tomato sauce & crostini."

I have a memory of getting the meatballs once a long, long time ago.  I think I liked them.  But this was, literally, 10 years ago.  So I was happy to see the meatballs go unclaimed, as I'd get to try them again.

The meatballs are huge, and all had a nice crust on them, if you know what I mean.  I like a meatball with a bit of a sear on it like this.  Inside was quite moist, and the mix of proteins (pork, beef, and veal) created a fairly complex flavor.

The sauce was not my favorite.  It was rather sweet, in a way that I didn't want it to be, if that makes sense.

Overall, I didn't actually care for these, but they were well made.

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I also was able to try the burrata appetizer, but failed to take a photo.  It was served over a bed of arugula, with crostini on that side, and a separate container of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top.

I appreciated everything about the dish.  I love having creamy burrata with bitter arugula, and always like to drizzle olive oil over my burrata.  This was exactly what I want in a simple burrata dish, although I didn't want the crostini, which I was happy to leave for the others, who don't find it appropriate to just eat cheese drizzled with oil by the spoonful.

As much as I acknowledged the goodness of this dish, I didn't love it.  The burrata itself just wasn't as ripe and creamy as it can be.
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