Sicilian on Fillmore
My list of restaurants to try is as long as I am tall, and it’s elaborately broken down into more specific categories: just opened, classics I’ve never been to, classics to repeat, etc. To my frustration, the list grows longer and longer, even though it feels like I’m an eating-out machine.
Last Saturday, I finally got to cross off Vivande from my classic-that-I’ve-never-tried list. (We featured it in June’s Best Of issue as the “Best 27-Year-Old Pasta.”) While Vivande wasn’t as off the radar as I envisioned—we snagged the last two counter seats in the otherwise packed restaurant—it was also far from the Saturday-night scene you’d find at trendier places.
Neither one of us ended up ordering the signature Venus’ Jewel Box, or any other pasta dishes, but we watched the chef prepare several dozen plates—often with three pans simmering at a time. The show was intense, and you could tell that the chef could work his stove with his eyes closed, or perhaps even with a hand tied behind his back. We were mesmerized, but not so much so that we couldn’t finish our food. My oven-roasted salmon over cannellini beans was prepared just right, and my friend’s parmesan-crusted pork chop was tasty, even if his green beans were overcooked.
Speaking of Italian food, A16’s sister restaurant SPQR—think rustic Roman-style fare—is opening tonight in the old Chez Nous space. They don’t take reservations, so if you don’t feel like waiting at the bar (even though I hear Shelley’s outdone herself with the all-Italian wine list), why not take a stroll a few blocks toward Sacramento and peek in at Vivande?