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Starbelly: The Castro's Home Away from Home

While you might observe that the food at Starbelly is derivative—that is, it could be found at a handful of like-minded restaurants around town—it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want a restaurant like this in your neighborhood. The owners—two of the Beretta partners, who nailed it with cocktails and pizza in the Mission—have clearly considered the Castro’s upscale demographic and catered directly to it. (If it’s fried padron peppers and chicken pot pie that the people want, then by God give it to them!) This approach may not lead to loads of culinary innovation, but it does result in lots of happy diners. Thus far, it’s worked. Starbelly has been packed.

Chalkboard Revelations; Salted Caramel Pot de Créme with Rosemary Cornmeal cookies

The restaurant has an understated interior that mixes a dash of Beretta (long bar, communal table) with a dash of Bar Bambino (exposed raw wood, glass globe lights) and a menu that can best be described as California comfort. There are snacks, such as mini corn dogs (tempting, but underwhelming), to pair with the long list of interesting beers and beer and wine “cocktails,” inspired solutions to the lack of a full liquor license. There are also salads and small plates, dishes such as expertly grilled, brilliantly fresh sardines with cherry tomatoes, pickled onions and peppers and basil aioli, as well as plump mussels luxuriating in a delicious full-flavored broth studded with bits of chorizo.

The Porchetta plate

Of course there are also perfectly adequate pizzas, as well as a Prather Ranch burger with fries. But of all the dishes here, the MVP is the porchetta: Crisp-skinned, with juicy, fennel-scented meat and topped with a spoonful of salsa verde, it’s precisely the kind of dish you’d hope to find in an unpretentious neighborhood joint, which Starbelly most certainly is.

Starbelly
3583 16th St., 415-252-7500