Hegui and I went to Delfina on the edge of the Mission near Dolores Park last Saturday to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. We’ve been big fans of this restaurant for years though tend to go only for special occasions. The prices aren’t that bad. It’s more the restaurant’s popularity which requires a reservation be made a few weeks ahead, especially on weekend nights. And now with the new Delfina Pizzeria just next door, it seems more crowded than ever, at least on the sidewalk outside the establishment. Good for them! I’m glad that the place is thriving in these problem economic times.
Delfina is an Italian restaurant that offers some classic dishes with modern presentations as well as some off-the-beaten-track things that will keep you coming back for more. They have an extensive wine list with a lot of regional Italian choices, but they also offer BYO. We’ve done corkage before and they were very nice about it. This time around we ordered a bottle of 2000 Steinraffler lagrein from the Alto Adige in northern Italy. The wine was a dark purple color and was fruity and earthy. It matched well with our meal.
The dining room is fairly small and usually noisy. The night we were there was no exception. It has a simple contemporary style with a rotating selection of paintings that are for sale by the artists. I never like their seating because it’s all wood chairs and benches without cushioning. I’m sensitive from sitting all week at my job, what can I say?
The menu changes but they tend to offer some of our favorite things all of the time. We started with the little gem salad with mountain gorgonzola vinaigrette and delicate radish slices. The salad was crisp and very refreshing. We particularly liked the gorgonzola dressing which we sopped up hungrily with the marvelous bread from Tartine that the restaurant always has on hand. It probably helps that Tartine is at the end of the same block as Delfina. Actually that dark crusted slightly sour rustic bread may be one of the reasons that Hegui is so enamored of this place. We’ve never been to another restaurant that serves this bread, which is a shame; it truly is perfect.
We shared the grilled fresh calamari with warm white bean salad and the fresh-cured anchovies “Nostrano” as antipasti. The calamari is one of our perennial favorites. I adored the anchovies though Hegui wasn’t that sure.
We did order the pasta: Delfina’s spaghetti with plum tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and peperoncini. We almost always get this dish and it is consistently good. Now that I’ve been making Roman pasta my way, Hegui thinks that he prefers the homemade version. Quel surprise! We also had the brodetto di pesce, a seafood dish with cockles, rock cod, skatewing and shrimp in an amazing tomato based sauce. I loved this. Really, it was the highlight of the meal for me.
The atmosphere is great and it’s really exciting to see all of the other diners celebrating their special occasions. The service is inconsistent and was not that great the day that we were there. However, on other visits they were excellent.
We were way too full for dessert but wanted to go for a cocktail afterward. It was very warm that day, so we strolled past Dolores Park admiring the local tennis stars, the famous Spanish style high school and the homeless encampment in between. After walking around the Castro for a bit, we stopped into The Midnight Sun for drinks and a few music videos. The bar was proudly announcing a drink special that night: “$2 FARTS.” I suspect that someone was pulling our collective leg. Hegui had a beer on tap and I had a glass of Campari with grapefruit juice. This elegant bittersweet drink reminded me of the Italian greyhound at Redd or maybe a non-sparkling Spritx. It was the perfect conclusion to a wonderful Italian meal.