Since it opened more than a year ago, Cotogna has been a hot ticket in San Francisco’s historic Jackson Square in the Financial District. Named by many as the hottest new restaurant in town, reservations online would often only be available at 3:30 p.m. I know, because I’ve been checking for the better half of 2011.
And like winning the lotto, last month I checked and was able to get dinner reservations for a more decent hour in January, which traditionally is the slowest month of the year for restaurants as people recuperate from their holiday spending. But reservations at Cotogna was my gift, and I shared it with my fellow food blogger Foodhoe.
Cotogna is Italian for “quince,” which makes sense because it’s the brainchild of Michael and Lindsay Tusk, owners of the elegant Quince. Cotogna is opened right next door to Quince, which is an easy format to put together considering the previous restaurant in that spot, Myth, also had a café next door.
The restaurant, especially on a cold winter night, can warm you with its cozy wood décor and the wood-fire oven and rotisserie up front. Chef Michael Tusk, the 2011 James Beard Award Winner for best chef (Pacific), continues the Italian vision of Quince, but in a rustic and casual setting.
The menu offers several sections, each with just a few offerings. Still, it can seem overwhelming as you drift from antipasti to primi (first course), “la griglia” (from the grill), pizze (pizzas), giardino (side dishes) and “del giorno” (daily specials). There’s also a prix fixe selection for $24.
The dishes that arrive at the table are fresh and seasonal, with a homey touch and a flair for the fancy in very subtle ways. It’s not always the presentation that’s front and center, like it is at Quince, but the bold flavors and taste combinations. A gnocchi dish ($16) was boisterous with its Calabrian sausage and broccoli, but still comfy like a blanket that wraps you with the pillowy gnocchi.
A special seasonal pizza of Dungeness crab ($15) balanced the delicate flavor of the fresh crab on top with a memorable cream sauce made of controne pepper. The pizza itself was perfectly baked, with a thin crispy crust.
On paper, Cotogna might seem to offer the typical rustic Italian dishes so popular around San Francisco right now. But it stands out with dressed up home-style creations that delight and satisfy. I’m already checking for the next available reservations.
Cotogna, 490 Pacific Ave. (at Montgomery), San Francisco. PH: 415.775.8508. Open lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday, and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m., Sunday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. 4% HealthySF tax added to your tab. www.cotognasf.com
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