Maybe it’s a sign of getting older, or some kind of generalized, increased fussiness, but more and more often, I arrive at a restaurant at the end of the day, tired, sort of out of sorts, and am looking, more than anything else, for peace, and calm, and a certain kind of tranquility. Zingari delivers that, along with truly excellent food. I have had my fill of yelling and fanfare and “look at me” restaurants, particularly in San Francisco, and the last thing I want is more. Zingari happily obliges.
The sense you get at this place is of being in someone’s home, albeit an extremely tasteful, somewhat old-fashioned home. The place is quiet. The servers know what they’re doing. And if you’re lucky, like I was, you can get a seat by a window that looks out onto Sutter Street, and you can watch the evening gradually come on, and the day gradually end.
And you can reflect on the fact that San Francisco really is a port city, and that thanks to the ferocious North Pacific, a cold, wet fog is rolling down onto the city, and that outside, it’s pretty damn unpleasant unless you have boots on and a serious jacket. And you can sit there, with a drink in your hand and a lovely Italian dish on a white tablecloth in front of you, and contemplate how wonderful it is that you’re in there while everything is going on out there.
Address: 501 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Sun – Thu 3:00 PM – 10:30 PM
Fri – Sat 3:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Tue – Fri 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Sat 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM
Sun 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM
Sun – Thu 11:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Fri – Sat 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: Right off of Union Square. Very safe, pretty, but impossible parking unless you’re going to pony up for a garage.
The Ambiance: Really, really nice. The exterior is pretty unimpressive – just a big blue awning, and a tent sign on the sidewalk. However, the interior is lovely. The walls are a muted blue grey, with tile floors, an a minimum of ornamentation or fuss. There are big windows that overlook Sutter and Mason streets, and the whole place is broken up into three separate, smallish dining rooms, with different levels and connecting hallways. Given the Italian theme, there’s the Venetian Room, the Florence Room and the Piano Room.
I really liked the vibe of Zingari. The rooms are old-school, with high ceilings, but with the exception of some mirrors and sconces as accents, the décor is very clean and minimal. The place features live jazz in the Piano Room (surprise), which was simply a bass player and a pianist the evening I was there. Overall, the place was very quiet, pleasant and professional. I’m also a sucker for classic white tablecloths, which they had.
The Service: Professional. Quiet servers who knew what they were doing, and crumbed the table, which is always nice. Low-key, friendly, expert. All good.
The Price: Not cheap. Including tip, dinner came to $72, for one entrée, an appetizer and dessert. No alcohol.
The Food: Excellent. Eliza Martin, the chef, trained in New York and Chicago, where she certainly got her Italian on, and the menu shows it. This is not California cuisine – it’s classic Italian, with a modern, lightish element. Each dish had something a little interesting or surprising in it, and did not just fall back on the same old Italian cooking clichés that can make Italian food so tedious.
The appetizer I selected was cavolfiore, which the menu described as “Lightly breaded cauliflower, crisp broccoli rabe leaves, orange segments, capers, lemon and carrot aioli.” This was FANTASTIC. Like a lot of middle-aged men who are minding their waistlines, I eat a lot of salad, and it tends to fall into known categories most of the time. This was something completely new – breaded cauliflower, with a really interesting array of veggies, condiments and so on. The combination was ideal – the cauliflower was lightly breaded and fried, the citrus and the saltiness of the capers contrasted nicely, and the aoli tied everything together. This was an interesting, reasonably light opening dish.
Which continued into the entrée. I ordered ossobuco, the old Italian warhorse. This version, however, was made with wild boar rather than veal, which was something interesting. When I was a boy, my mother used to make this because veal shanks were cheap, and she had five kids to feed. Now, it’s a big gourmet deal, and Ms. Martin made this version with pig rather than cow, so to speak. The menu describes it as “slow braised wild boar, wild mushroom risotto, barolo demi glaze, white fruffle oil”.
I have this theory that the personality and/or appearance of the chef is reflected in the food, sort of how dogs are said to resemble their owners. Ms. Martin, at least from the picture on the web site, looks youngish, thinnish, alert and creative, and the food is like that, too.
And as with the appetizer, what hit the table was a mini-revelation. Much lighter and more tomatoey than typical ossobuco. And that included the risotto, which there’s a temptation to make gloppy and heavy and rich and ultimately, sort of tasteless. Not this time. This version was much more modern and even, dare I say it, healthy. It was great, in other words. First-class ingredients, expertly prepared and simply presented without a lot of fanfare.
And finally, to finish off my old-fashioned-yet-modern meal, I had an espresso and two scoops of perfect sorbet. Nothing fancy, but just perfect. And looked out the window, and thought about things. And walked home in the darkness.
Website : http://www.zingari.com/
Phone : +1 415-885-8850
Published On: Thursday, April 13th, 2017