How fortunate of us to have dined at chiaroscuro ristorante the other night – Martin, Florence, Tim, and me. I love wandering around the streets of Jackson Square – home to such favorites as William Stout Books and Bix – so arriving early was ideal. We headed straight to the bar at Bix and had a glass of prosecco before our Italian dinner. As 8:00pm approached, we walked down the street to check-in for dinner.
The other half of our dining team was already crossing the street to meet us. Perfect timing! Nested across from the Transamerica Building, chiaroscuro is a smallish box of concrete – floor, benches - was surprisingly warm, romantic, and chic. Perhaps a different feel on a bright sunny day but tonight, the lighting was ethereal. The staff was delightful and quite stylish I might add.
We started with a bottle of their Prosecco Enrico – which went nicely with shared antipasti. I can’t resist salumi and cheese so, of course, we shared a platter along with a taste of a few types of brushette. The dishes were fresh and delicious, exactly how they should be. For my primi, the homemade tagliolini with caramelized onions, imported guanciale, tomato, and romano cheese sounded mouth-watering… and it was divine. Again, simple, fresh and perfectly seasoned. On my next visit, I’ll have to try the housemade walnut filled gnocchi in a butter sage sauce with nutmeg (I don’t know why nobody ordered this – how silly.).
For those of you who know me well, you know I love food topped with a baked egg (salad, hamburger, pasta, pizza, etc.). Not everyone does it right and not every dish worthy of the crown, but there’s something magical when it all works. The abbacchio alla griglia was a dream – grilled Australian lamb served with a polenta soufflé topped with a baked egg and imported Gorgonzola cheese. The lamb was so delicious; it was so hard to share a few bites with my husband. And, wow, the rich and tangy soufflé just melted in my mouth. For me, I really liked the egg and Gorgonzola pairing. A 2005 Rosso di Montepulciano DOC Sabazio went nicely with the meal. For dessert, a cornucopia of sugar delight, with beignets as the centerpiece.
And, to top off our dining experience, it was the chef’s birthday! A well-lit cake arrived accompanied by a lovely voice singing Happy Birthday; the restaurant chimed in the chef, Alessandro Campitelli, blushed.
We’ll definitely be back.
Low-light gritty images rendered by iPhone.
550 Washington St.
San Francisco, CA 94111