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Pasta My Heart

I know I write about pasta a lot. But as they old saying goes: Write what you know.

A few months back I lauded the homemade pasta at Perbacco. Now I’m onto another treasure trove of semolina—Ducca, the new restaurant in the Westin Hotel on Third Street. It’s spacious and swank, with a circular, candy-apple-red front lounge and an outside patio looking up at SFMOMA and the rest of the tony block it sits on. They also serve a killer little appetizer of deep-fried olives stuffed with gorgonzola. Also, the service is polite and professional without being cloying. But what really impressed me were the three pasta dishes I tried: wide silky sheets of pappardelle coated in a hearty lamb ragu; huge tortelloni stuffed with mascarpone and sweet corn and drizzled with brown butter and hazelnuts, which made for a nutty, savory-sweet dish that almost felt like dessert; and a stellar gnocchi tossed with roasted chicken, porcini mushrooms and fava beans, a combo that was genius in its browned, earthy, buttery green goodness.


Ducca's tortelloni with mascarpone and sweet corn.

All the pastas come in either appetizer or entrée portions, and an appetizer is more than enough if you’re ordering other courses. I studied this gnocchi, examining the texture of each little ricotta dumpling, wondering how long it would take to get the sides of them just that brown without burning the butter, noting how finely the mushrooms were diced and how crunchy the fava beans were.


Ducca's gnocchi with chicken, porcini and fava beans.

I decided to try it at home, and if my results are even half as good as Ducca’s, I’ll be happy.