Incanto, opened in 2002, emphasizes local and sustainable ingredients (the herbs are grown on the roof), with chef Chris Cosentino making a cultish philosophy of head-to-tail charcuterie. The restaurant has a Tuscan accent, though Cosentino says his region of Italy is “California,” since that’s where he gets his ingredients. The menu, which changes daily, features odd cuts and offal paired with in-season produce: porchetta di testa with capers, radish, and pecorino; pig’s trotter with foie gras, bacon, and strawberry-rhubarb jam; salsiccia with braised fennel, pickled pepers, and arugula; and pork shoulder with rhubarb and favas. This summer, Cosentino opens Boccalone Salumeria, in the Ferry Building Market Place; the store will sell a full complement of salted pig parts. (1550 Church St.; 415-641-4500;
La Ciccia, tucked away in the unpretentious Outer Mission area, is the only Sardinian restaurant in town (and perhaps the only one west of the Mississippi). Chef Massimiliano Conti and partner/general manager Lorella Degan’s mom-and-pop place opened two years ago, showcasing Conti’s home cuisine (he’s from a small town near Cagliari), which is light and simple, emphasizing fresh fish. Sardinians flock to this restaurant for its bottarga; spaghetti with dried tuna heart; delicate sardines; calamari with broccoli rabe, capers, and peppers; and gelato of Pecorino and fig. “La Ciccia” means prosperity—and also a cute, chubby belly. You leave with a happy feeling of both. (291 30th St.; 415-550-8114;
The huge, sleek downtown Perbacco focuses on northern Italian food, and chef Staffan Terje is dedicated to his house-made salume; the dishes range from non e un gran che (no big deal) to divine. Everything about Perbacco is sprawling: the menu, the wine list, the space; it has an authentically modern Milanese feel. After a tasting plate of house-made salume, and a few appetizers—slow-roasted veal in lemon and albacore tuna sauce with capers and arugula; burrata cheese with friarelli peppers and white anchovy on arugula; roasted pears with red and white endive, gorgonzola, and chestnut honey vinaigrette—come some hearty primi. Ricotta gnocchi with wild-mushroom brodo and roasted torpedo onion; borlotti bean minestra with cavolo nero; and hand-cut tagliatelle with five-hour pork sugo and porcini mushrooms have a strong Piemontese accent, as do the mains (sea scallops on the piastra, with Barbera bagna cauda; beef short rib stracotto). “Perbacco” is what Italians say when they want to emphasize a positive comment, and there’s a lot of perbacco about Perbacco right now. (230 California St.; 415-955-0663;
Pesce, opened by Ruggero Gadadi in 2000, focuses, naturally, on fish. The emphasis is Venetian, with small cicchetti plates to share, simple pastas with fresh fish, and main dishes of whole fish—but Gadadi, a fan of Sardinian cooking, throws in some dishes from the islands, too. “When my son was three, he ate clams like a little sea otter, so I decided I had to open a fish place,” Galadi says. Octopus, oysters, anchovies, sardines, tuna—the whole school is here, practically still wriggling. (2227 Polk St.; 415-928-8025;
SPQR, which opened on chic Fillmore Street in late 2007, devotes itself to Rome—the restaurant’s name is short for “the Senate and the Roman people,” the ancient city’s official signature. The tiny restaurant, with its no-reservations policy and elbow-to-elbow seating, feels intimate and chatty, like a corner osteria in Italy. The menu invites you to try a glass of wine—from lesser-known Italian regions—and a few small bites, inevitably leading to a meal. The appetizers are divided into “cold,” “hot,” and “fried,” and are priced at $28 for five plates—you could choose, say, fennel salad with tuna conserva, chiles, and anchovy; cellini beans with pork sofritto; grilled Pecorino with endive, radicchio, and capers; house-made pork sausage with braised fennel; and—definitely—the savory, caramelized fried Brussels sprouts with garlic, capers, lemon, and parsley. The house-made pastas are truly Roman, like pasta carbonara with guanciale, and those with truly hearty appetites can continue on to meat-concentrated entrées and light desserts. (1911 Fillmore St.; 415-771-7779;
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