We were thrilled to try Locanda in the Mission District over the July 4th weekend. We’ve been long-time admirers of Delfina in the same ‘hood, and when we learned about this “child of Delfina” we had to go. Unlike the parent, Locanda is in a sketchier part of town: Valencia between 16th and 17th Streets. It was a gorgeous Independence Day so I insisted we go early to window shop before the reservations at 7:30PM. As we walked by the City-run garage on 16th towards the Wells Fargo ATM machines, these two guys right in front of, then, right around us got into an argument apparently about the fair price for “two rocks” of crack. It got heated as I got anxious. One pushed the other into the street, which fortunately, didn’t have much traffic. They both continued arguing. That’s way too much reality-TV-come-to-life for me.
We made it to the restaurant and I was ready for a cocktail right away. They’ve a gorgeous bar here and it was packed! The cocktails looked great, too. I planned on ordering a “Smoke and Spice,” some gin, scotch drink with citrus, but the waitperson took so long to arrive, that I gave up and ordered a bottle of wine instead, thinking that would keep Hegui and me happy and reduce my impatience with further delays.
The staff there are as you might expect at a stylish place in the Mission: young, attractive, covered in tattoos and, since this place is fairly new, a bit disorganized. We saw several chatting with one another throughout the evening but not a lot of serving action. Isn’t that often the way with new-ish restaurants? Though I had kind of thought since Delfina is run so well, that they’d have worked out the kinks by now. Oh well.
Locanda is Italian with a focus on Roman style food. They cure their own meat, which is interesting, but didn’t really appeal since we’re pescatarian. The menu does have enough to offer vegetarian diners choice without feeling like an afterthought, which is nice. We tried a few appetizers, a pasta dish and dessert. All were veggie except the Pizza Bianca.
The Jewish style artichoke was really tasty. It was fried but didn’t seem especially oily. I liked the fact that there were some small crunchy leaves that remained attached to the tender heart to nosh on. We had the fresh porcini salad which came with grilled romaine and cheese. It looked more braised than grilled as there was a fair amount of sauce. The dish was fun and tasty. The Carciofi Crudi was our favorite starter: a salad with some greens, shaved raw artichoke and avocado; this was ultra fresh and subtle.
Hegui tried the Pizza Bianca with egg and anchovy as his main. This was less of a pizza than a focaccia sandwich with egg salad. He liked it though it didn’t really work for me. I had the spaghetti with fava beans and ricotta salata. I’ve been keen on that type of cheese ever since H made Devaki’s pasta alla Norma. And this was good. Yet I felt disappointed. It didn’t taste at all like that spicy spaghetti in tomato sauce from Delfina or like the one from home. Just goes to show that I need to stick with my best food advice: Don’t ever order something at a restaurant that you make at home or know that you like from somewhere else. We shared side orders of green beans and sautéed greens.
Not fully cheesed out yet, I ordered the cheese plate (unnecessary) and the yummy ricotta fritta (necessary) with a glass of delightfully bitter Cynar—made from artichokes—to finish.
The physical space of the restaurant is eye-catching: modern but relaxed. People were really excited to be there, which gave it an excellent energy. We thought that the food and service were just OK.