By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Centrally located and surrounded by tourist attractions and big hotels, Puccini & Pinetti Italian Restaurant and Bar in the San Francisco's Union Square neighborhood is a good ambassador for the city’s bustling culinary scene.
Italian cuisine is wired to bring people together and make them feel at home with myriad magical combinations of dough, cheese, garlic, and olive oil.
What makes Puccini and Pinetti traditional recipes unforgettable is the sauce.
The freshest and tastiest, made of ripe tomatoes in their prime, and balanced out with a variety of other enticing ingredients, the sauce comes on every plate, and enlivens every palate.
A starter sun-dried tomato tapenade on fluffy focaccia bread is one example. It contains finely diced Kalamata olives, capers, garlic, and virgin olive oil.
Always popular bruschetta is modernized here with thin crostini on a side, reserving a central place on a plate for creamy burrata immersed in whole-tomato savory sauce, all drizzled with aged balsamic. Delish!
Since the night we dined happened to be one of the Dine About Town nights when select San Francisco restaurants serve a prix fixe with a huge discount, we ordered from the special 3-course menu.
My husband’s pear salad had crunchy baby spinach, whole almonds and goat cheese, sauced up with white balsamic vinaigrette.
I surely preferred white wine-steamed mussels bathing in a sauce of garlic stewed tomatoes, basil, and capers, and topped with grilled crostini. Those came in handy when I was scooping up that richly flavored sauce.
My main course was Tuscan vegetarian lasagna that looked like Tricolore with bright-red pomodoro sauce, green basil pesto, and white ricotta and goat cheese.
Grilled seasonal vegetables between the layers of pasta included eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and even corn kernels.
My husband’s short rib was served with parsnip puree, cipollini onions, carrots, and exquisite red wine sauce.
Speaking of wine, the list of libations is broadly international. Broadbent malbec from Argentina made a good match with the short rib.
Cocktails range from staples to new inventions. Hendrick’s Gin Negroni with Campari and sweet vermouth on the rocks is what the bar at Puccini & Pinetti is known for, but I also enjoyed my Acai Martini with VeeV, white peach, and lime.
For dessert, I voted for my favorite tiramisu, and wasn’t disappointed. My husband shared his crème brulee with me, and although I seemingly couldn’t take another bite, it was creamy and good, and I did.
Puccini & Pinetti is located at 129 Ellis St., San Francisco. Call for reservations 415-392-5500 or visit www.pucciniandpinetti.com.