: views from the Hill

Friday, September 16, 2005

[FOOD] Albona Ristorante Istriano

Yesterday, I wrote,

We've made arrangements for dinner at Albona Ristorante Istriano (545 Francisco St, SF.(415) 441-1040) where we'll listen to Bruno Viscovi tell us how each dish is made and which ones he learned to cook at his grandmother's knee. Pan-fried gnocchi. Braised rabbit. Roasted pork loin stuffed with sauerkraut, apples, prunes. Ymmm. Pine nut strudel. Luckily, we can walk down. Out-of-towners should grab a cable car (cross street is Mason) or a taxi. Parking is impossible. Well, not impossible, just unlikely.

We gave ourselves fifteen minutes to walk from Filbert and Montgomery (más o menos) to Mason and Francisco. We probably should've given ourselves a cushion. As it was, we left five minutes later than planned and boogey'd down the hill. (We boogey much faster than we did back when we first arrived here.)

Correction to my "parking is impossible" comment yesterday. Last night, we noticed a "valet parking" sign, so there's hope for those with cars looking for a place to stash them.

Bruno wasn't there. His nephew was (or a man who claimed to be his nephew). [cue spooky music ... Sal tends toward the "but is he =really= the nephew or is Bruno tied up in the wine cellar?" school of thought.]

"Nephew" was dashing and suave and charming. Quite a hit with the tables. He (the nephew) said he'd sent his uncle home because ...

... because Bruno schmoozes too much and the house was full?

We like to see our local food places successful (so long's we can still find a table). Albona was hopping last night. Multiple tables for four, a table for five, a table for six. Us'ns. Others. The place really isn't that big and I was glad we'd opted for a reservation even though we'd thought, "Thursday? Surely there'll be room for us."

There wouldn't've been time for Bruno to do his thing, the schmoozing, but I missed it. The nephew told us about the tomato soup: blanche the tomatoes, cook with the speck, take the speck out, add the Yukon gold potatoes. Whiz everything up so you wind up with a thick soup without the cream, just with potatoes with thickener. Sure, he had the same soup description down pat, but it wasn't Bruno.

The food, though, was still what we remembered from our last visit.

His nibs had the chifelete, grandma's pan-fried gnocchi with brown sirloin sauce. These gnocchi are puffy and light, not like any gnocchi I've ever had elsewhere.

I asked if they had fresh sardines and could I have the sardele in saor a la veneziana (fillets of fried sardines with glazed onions; marinated with red wine viengar, raisins, pine-nuts). Certainly, the nephew replied. I picked up the sardines this morning. You're lucky. We had no sardines yesterday.

The sardines were cold, which was not what I expected, and were exceptionally yummy. Very.

For entrees, his nibs chose braseola de porco con capuzi garbi e prosuto (pork loin stuffed with prosciutto, sauerkeraut, apples and plums) well... prunes, actually. Very good.

I had the stinco de videl a la triestina (braised veal shank with Burgundy wine and rosemary glaze) with a soft polenta and sauce. Excellent. One thing I really like about Albona is they =always= put a plate and spoon at each place so you can share your food with the person you're dining with instead of, as we usually do, scooping things up on forks and hoping the bits don't fall on the tablecloth while you're passing them back and forth.

Remember me mentioning how I couldn't cut my pork chop at Frisson? Well, the folks at Albona gave me a serrated knife and I could cut my veal shank with my fork.


His nibs had a coffee-flavored cream zabaglione-type dessert with black cherries. Darn if I can remember what it was called (I'd scored a dinner menu but not a dessert menu). I had a glass of Donnafugata 2003 Ben Rye Sicilia Passito Di Pantelleria, a Sicilian dessert wine. Well, we shared the dessert and the wine.

Dinner was comfortable, yummy, quiet. Albona is definitely on our "go back again" list.

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