July 4, 2011 | Popular, Restaurants
We spent last weekend in San Francisco to celebrate my youngest child Jenny’s passage into adult – her 21st birthday. She’s a beauty, isn’t she? She also happens to be a foodie (and a food blogger) which meant – thankfully – no fast food for her celebration!Instead, we gathered our family and a couple of her friends for a meal not to be forgotten at Perbacco. If you missed it, Birra Moretti from Italy recently named Perbacco the most authentic Italian restaurant in North America. I had secured the reservation for our group prior to learning that, but couldn’t wait to eat there after I heard the news.We began our meal with the salumi selection, intrigued by the salsiccia cruda di bra (spiced veal and pork sausage that’s actually served raw on a grilled crostini), but not wanting a full appetizer of that. This selection evaporated quickly with our group, including the raw sausage which we found surprisingly good. (That’s it right above and to the right of the breadsticks – kind of like a sausage tartare.)If you’ve never experience burrata cheese – that velvety ball of mozzarella with creamy mozzarella bits in the center – you really haven’t lived in my book. I discovered this first at the cooking school I take people to in Puglia, but now order it whenever I see it. Perbacco served it with some zucchini slices, cherry tomatoes, pesto and marcona almonds. I could have eaten this all myself, but since it wasn’t my party, felt compelled to share with my daughter’s friends.Perbacco only offers a couple of salad options, but none is more authentic than this heaping plate of spicy arugula with Parmigiano Reggiano. It featured strawberries and a white balsamic vinaigrette, but honestly, they had me at arugula!Fritto Misto just reminds me of being in Rome. At Perbacco it included thin lemon slices that were a hit with both me and my son’s girlfriend, along with various vegetables (the fennel was outstanding) and some shrimp, all served with a tangy lemon aioli.You so rarely find rabbit on a menu in the US, that when I do, I figure it’s going to be cooked well, so I selected it for my entree. The leg (on the right) came stuffed and the loin simply roasted, with an assortment of jus and vegetable garnish. It didn’t disappoint.My daughter is just like me in that she always wants to try as many things on the menu as she can, so had negotiated to split that rabbit with me and ordered the duck breast to share as well. This was probably the best – and most unusual – duck breast I’ve ever had, served with a mix of fresh and dried stone fruits, arugula, a natural jus, and marcona almonds. Really good.While I love pasta, I always think of it as sort of the “cop-out” dish to order, the one thing that seems less risky (than say rabbit) that you’re sure to like. So it was that 5 of the 8 people at our table ordered this very pasta dish: pappardelle with slow cooked short rib ragu (it reminded me of the kind of wild boar ragu you would see in Tuscany) with roasted cipolline onions and grated horseradish. It may have been the “safe” dish, but it was incredible just the same!My oldest son’s girlfriend is almost as shy an eater as my son – maybe another reason they are matched so well – but she found the Meyer lemon and ricotta stuffed ravioli on the menu and she was instantly sold. With a little basil oil and some cherry tomatoes, it was a perfect summer pasta dish.Despite eating more than you would ever imagine her tiny frame would allow, my daughter always seems ready to make room for dessert. Perbacco called this a white chocolate souffle, but to us it seemed more like a mousse.I was content to dip the complimentary amaretti cookies into a glass of Vin Santo instead, as I sat back and marveled at my all grown up little girl. Talented, pretty, kind, adventurous – she’s quite the dynamo in that tiny package!