What can be said about SPQR that hordes of prattling food scribes have not? Hidden among the high-end Fillmore Street retailers, this quintessential Italian bistro is decorated with one Michelin star. 7x7 senior editor Leilani Marie Labong and I recently braved the recent (and flaccid) stormageddon to find out why.
Unlike our previous escapades at Spruce (ahhh, Spruce) where we were fawned over to the hilt, the fine folks at SPQR keep it real. A delightful change of pace. We sat at the "chef's table" (aka the bar) where we could see chef Matthew Accarrino at work. Having had the seemingly insurmountable task of filling the shoes of one Nate Appleman (now chef of the venerable Chipotle), Accarrino has not only matched his predecessor's culinary prowess, he skyrocketed into the stratosphere above him (alas, nice guys do finish first). We indulged in his Festa Dei Tartufi tasting menu (or the seasonal truffle menu, for those of you who lack basic Italian), as well as the Assaggio De Primi, which, according to the person who picked up the phone at SPQR, indicates the pasta tasting menu.
The first bite of the dungeness crab and kumquats proved a refreshing precursor to a series of dishes that got richer and richer (a veritable ombre of richness, if you will) with each truffle-showered plate. The second course on the Festa Dei Tartufi, an impossibly sophisticated take on a cabbage roll, was stuffed with an unctuous mixture forest mushrooms and Telme cheese. A soul-satisfying masterpiece about which we occasionally interject our rave reviews into our sometimes tedious weekly edit meetings.
Here I thought Panettone was the stuff you bought at Walgreens on your way to a friend-of-a-friend's Christmas party. Alas, no. Accarrino pairs a fragrant slice of the beloved bread with buddha's hand citrus and hazelnut-truffle gelato. The Montague and Capulets of ingredients coming together. It shouldn't work, but it does.
The pasta menu, not to be outdone, includes such creative dishes as squid ink spaghetti with sea urchin and turkey cannelloni, and can also be shaved with white truffles for a mere $34 supplement. (We took the 22 Fillmore in lieu of a 3x surge-rate Uber car in order to justify the evening's blatant fungus indulgence.)
Service at SPQR is attentive but not co-dependently so. You won't feel pampered necessarily, but here, and at the risk of sounding like an Olive Garden commercial, you'll feel like family.
SPQR (one star): 1911 Fillmore, SF; 415-771-7779