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Fino Ristorante – San Francisco, California
Visited: February 2022 • Italian
San Francisco definitely does not have a shortage of very good Italian restaurants, so to help us decide upon which one to visit, Tracy enlisted a friend who works in the city to aid in our search. Without hesitation, he answered, “Michele Obama’s favorite and mine … Fino.” (We subsequently learned the former first lady had dined here, albeit 13 years ago.)
Fino Ristorante is situated inside The Andrews Hotel, not too far from Union Square. It’s been family run since its opening in 1989, and we were glad we had reserved well in advance, because the place was packed. Entering from the lobby, we were seated in the cozy dining room with high ceilings, which was adjacent to a mahogany bar where people without reservations were able to grab a coveted last minute spot for dinner.
Having traversed the steep streets of San Francisco earlier in the day (why do they always seem to go uphill?), the two of us had worked up quite an appetite, and as we soon found out, Tracy’s friend was right on the money recommending this restaurant.
After taking our vino order, and while we perused the menu, a freshly baked loaf of bread was delivered to our table. It didn’t last long.
Jumping off the menu as a starter for me was the Carpaccio di Manzo; thinly sliced raw beef, arugula, capers, lemon and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. All the flavors melded perfectly and proved to be a great beginning to my meal.
Tracy opted for one of the evening’s specials, Bruschetta e Pancetta; garlic toasted Italian herb bread topped with roasted tomatoes, arugula, pancetta, roasted corn and fresh mozzarella drizzled with balsamic vinegar. As you can see it was quite a large dish, so Tracy enlisted me to help her finish it. Who said chivalry was dead?
I rarely eat veal, but tonight I had Veal Piccata on my mind. My Vitello alla Piccata; medallions of veal sautéed with lemon, butter and wine, was cooked to perfection. It was served with sautéed vegetables and roasted fingerling potatoes. Most of the calories I had dropped walking earlier were rapidly being added back.
Once again, Tracy ordered an item from the Specials menu for her main course, and it was quite delicious. Capesante e Pappardelle; fresh pan seared sea scallops served over sautéed garlic, spinach, Fresno pepper, sugar peas, sun-dried tomatoes, butter, white wine and a touch of cream tossed with spinach pappardelle, tasted as good as it looked.
Besides Tracy’s friend’s recommendation to dine here, another reason I was on board with Fino was because I read that they served Zabaglione (Zabaione). I’ve only found this addictive dessert at a few places, and it always seems to be prepared differently, but I have loved it everywhere I’ve tried it (one of my favorites being at Hostaria Costanza in Rome in 2009). Tonight would be yet another delectable iteration. The one I had in Rome was frozen, while Fino’s version of Zabaglione; traditional Italian custard made with Marsala wine, white wine, egg yolks, sugar and lemon, is served warm with fresh berries.
As terrific as this dessert turned out to be, the highlight of the dish is the tableside presentation. After a tall glass of fresh, plump mixed berries is deposited at the table, the Zabaglione Master (not his real title, but it should be) approaches in dramatic fashion, whisking the zabaglione briskly in a large copper pot. Once you are mesmerized by his whisking skills, he then proceeds to pour a cascading waterfall of the, according to Serious Eats, “warm boozy, egg-y cloud of deliciousness” over the berries, finally overflowing the glass. With a flourish, he tucks a tall spoon into the sumptuously creamy mixture and departs to whisk another bowl.
It made for quite an entertaining (and delicious) conclusion to a more-than-satisfying evening of dining.
Mai Tai Tom Rating • 4.7 Mai Tais (out of 5)
624 Post Street (between Taylor & Jones)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Daily 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Reservations highly recommended