Antica Trattoria2400 Polk Street, San Francisco CA 94109
This venue is no longer open.
Antica Trattoria – Warm Italian Atmosphere
Review by TableAgent
As you approach Antica Trattoria, you may notice a gathering of people around the front door. If you have a reservation, which we did, then things will go smoothly as Vicki, who manages the front of the house with genuine warmth and charm, seats you at a roomy table. The restaurant’s simple street presence makes it look like many of the earnest trattorias my dinner companion and I had visited when in Italy. Large windows face Polk Street and the sunlight warms the generously sized dining room. Antica Trattoria has no bar, or outside seating, so already your seating choices are simplified. The walls above the wainscoting are painted the color of the traditional Tomato and Bread Soup of Tuscany and bathe diners in a soft pink glow as the sun hits the room. Antica’s tables are covered with simple white linens and the wood chairs are comfortable. The minimal décor helps to bring attention to the many radiant smiles you will easily find on the faces of the restaurant’s loyal customers.
Despite the absence of a designated bar area, Antica is not lacking in their beverage selection. The wine list is heavy on Italian wines by the glass, the half bottle, or the bottle. Guests are invited to travel north to Italy’s Piemonte/Piedmont region or east to the Veneto/Venice region, to head south to the Lazio/Rome region or maybe go as far south as Sicily all via Antica’s impressive wine list. The wine list also includes a selection of Napa and Sonoma wines and offers several Italian aperitifs as well as a selection of sparkling wines, champagnes, and birres.
The unmistakable aromas drifting about in Antica Trattoria are the product of the childhood and training of Italian Chef Ruggero Gadaldi. Much of what Chef Galaldi knows today he learned from his family in Italy. Chef Gadaldi learned to cure prosciutto and salami in his family’s business, Gadaldi’s Gastronomia, near Bergamo, just thirty-one miles northeast of Milano. A shepherd taught Chef Gadaldi to milk cows and make cream and butter from the renewable bounty of the cow, and he learned how to make Tiramisu from his Mama Gadaldi’s own recipe. No wonder his restaurant tastes, smells, sounds, and bustles in an authentically Italian way!
Chef Gadaldi made his entrance onto the competitive San Francisco restaurant scene by first cooking at Etrusca, a classic Tuscan restaurant started and backed by Bay Area restaurateur Larry Mindel of Il Fornaio fame. This celebrated beginning led Chef Gadaldi to eventually open Antica Trattoria which is now in its fourteenth year. Antica Trattoria made the prestigious Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list in several recent years and has truly earned its title as a neighborhood jewel.
After we were comfortably seated and we began to take a look at the menu, a plate of crisp, raw vegetables and an olive oil based dipping sauce were graciously placed on our table. What a nice, crunchy way to begin our dinner. A basket of bread and butter arrived as we ordered dinner leaving us satisfied for the moment, but anxiously awaiting our impending meal.
Even though Antica’s menu was concise, we found ourselves having a difficult time making our selections because so much sounded so delicious. We began with the Sopressata antipasti, a spiced, flavorful salami of preserved, marbled pork formed to resemble a flower when sliced. The dish is clove scented and exquisitely spiced. To accompany this delicacy, Antica makes a giardiniera from cauliflower, artichokes, cucumbers, peppers, and yellow beans that is crisp with a light vinegar flavor and pairs very nicely with the Sopressata.
We next sampled the Barbabietole from the Insalate selections. Its mixed organic salad greens were fresh and gilded with smooth hazelnut vinaigrette. Roasted beets and a good portion of creamy goat cheese accompanied the salad greens and, from the number of servings we saw fly past our table; make this salad very popular at Antica.
The Agnello Grigliato, three plump lamb chops topping an eclectic mixture of farro, carrots, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and onions were served to us in a generous bowl. The lamb chops were expertly grilled as we requested, medium rare, and were tender and juicy. The farro mixture proved to be a good base for the lamb. Farro, a grain that has been used by mankind for thousands of years, has a nutty flavor and is firm to the bite. It worked well with the salty morsels of kalamata olive and the sun-dried tomatoes to give the lamb an earthy essence.
The Braciola di Maiale, a generously sized pork chop, was a cookbook example of everything you may have been told that brining could achieve. The thick meat was full of flavorful juices and the chop was as tender as I had hoped it would be. The pork sat atop a second delight which the menu called “fresh corn-polenta." This polenta was unique in my experience of polentas. It was a beautiful, creamy, golden pool of fresh corn that had been minimally processed into a simple, very thick, soup-like smoothness. The chopped pancetta was mixed into the corn and as the pork chop was dipped into this corn/pancetta mixture the sweetness of the corn complemented the pork chop. This corn/pancetta enhancement provided a nice surprise to an already exquisite pork chop.
The Torta al Cioccolato, or chocolate fondant cake, arrived in two slices and was joined by what I assumed were superfluous amarene cherries being used to merely decorate the plate. I promised myself that I would not pick up the extra fork to taste the Torta, but I failed. The pointy end of the Torta melted in my mouth and the dense, exterior edge was chocolatey, chewy, and decadent. After serious study, we agreed that the Torta was more dark chocolate than milk chocolate, which was just fine with us. As for the amarene cherries, it turns out that they were not superfluous after all, but actually addictive and positively mandatory to this decadent dessert.
Antica Trattoria is located on Polk Street at Union which is an active and lively section of San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood. Polk Street is lined with busy restaurants, shops and bars, therefore attracting a multitude of residents and visitors alike in the evenings and on the weekends. Parking can be a bit of a challenge in this otherwise charming area of San Francisco, so as a courtesy I will advise you to allow plenty of time before your reservation for parking. Why not make a day of it, shopping, dinner and after-dinner drinks? Russian Hill is a neighborhood worth discovering and Antica Trattoria is a genuine Italian eatery worthy, at the very least, of a little extra parking time.
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- Address: 2400 Polk Street, San Francisco CA 94109
- Cross Street: Union
- Location: San Francisco | Nob Hill
- Cuisine: Italian | Pasta |
- Cost: | Inexpensive
- Category: Casual Dining
- Star Rating:
- Reservations: Recommended
- Dress Code: Business Casual
- Meals Served: Dinner |
- Parking: Street | Public Lot |
- Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard |
- Corkage Fee: N/A
- Website: http://www.anticasf.com/
- Phone: (415) 928-5797
- Features: Takeout Available, Wheelchair Access, Valet Parking,
- Occasion: Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Quiet Conversation, Special Occasion,