Brick wall exterior blends in with Jackson Square

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.

Fluke crudo with grapefruit, fennel and olive ($12)

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.

Billy Brown specialty cocktail ($11) made of Calvados brandy, Cocchi Americano, and apricot

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.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 camera snaps

 

 

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

Cotogna on Urbanspoon

Foodhoe's cellphone reflecting off her glass of rose (left) and Brussel sprouts with gremolata ($7) (right)

Comforting gnocchi with Calabrian sausage and broccoli ($16)

Spacious dining room didn't feel crowded (unless you're squeezed among the two tops on the perimeter)

Dungeness crab, wild fennel and controne pepper pizza ($15)

Brown butter medjool date tart with candied tangerine ($8) was heavy on the flakey crust but offset by light and delicious cream

6 Responses to Getting Into the City’s Italian Hot Spot

  1. Sandy says:

    They know my weakness!! Brussels Sprouts and Gnocchi!!! MUST GO SOON… Thanks for the post, Ben!

  2. hungry dog says:

    After going to Cotogna once in November, it jumped to the top of my list. I adored it! We have a reservation for next weekend. You probably know this but sometimes it helps just to call instead of going through Open Table–they seem to reserve quite a few tables for call-ins. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Do you have an extra spot on your rezzie? ;-) Oh, I never knew about calling in. That makes sense. Except I don’t like to talk to a human being. I like the cold simplicity of the Internet.

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    I’m so dying to go there, because I love Quince and had one of the best gnocchi ever there. Oooh, Dungeness crab pasta looks incredible, too. You didn’t happen to save me some, did ya? LOL

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