557 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dining date: 5/23/11
Locanda is the latest creation from Craig and Annie Stoll (the couple that brought us Delfina and Pizzeria Delfina), opened just three weeks ago. I’m a fan of both of the previous restaurants, so this was a must-try on my list. Both of the Stoll’s restaurants are Italian; the focus here is on the cuisine of Rome. Pastas and charcoal grilled items make up the bulk of the menu, with a number of intriguing offal options.
I had a flight to catch that evening, but was lucky enough to snag an early 5:30 reservation. Finding the restaurant can be a little tricky; the exterior signage is a plain black sign that says “cocktails.” However, there are letters in the bottom of the window that spell out “Locanda.” My mother and I opted to split one appetizer and one entree, as well as a few pastas.
Pizza Bianca olive oil, sea salt
We were first served the house bread (kind of similar to a foccacia), topped with olive oil and sea salt. The bread had a nice chew, with just enough oil and salt to keep things interesting.
Jewish Style Artichoke
Now this was fun. Apparently this is a classic dish from the Jewish area of Rome – an artichoke deep fried and topped with mint. The interior was meaty and the exterior crispy, quite tasty. I liked the mint, which added just a little bit of brightness to the dish; a lemon wedge added some welcome acidity.
Bucatini all’ Amatriciana guanciale, tomato, peperoncini, pecorino
I thought this was a very good version of the classic. Expectantly so, the pasta was perfectly cooked, leaving just a bit of chew to the pasta. The guanciale (cured pork cheek) imparted a little richness and hint of pork flavor, while there was just a little bit of spiciness that crept up on the palate. It was borderline too spicy for my mother, but I found it just right.
Radiatore “Pecora e Pecorino” lamb ragu, pecorino, mint
Excellent dish. I really liked the radiator-shaped pasta as it clung to the ragu so well. The pasta almost had a spongy texture because it had so much sauce, and really made for some good bites. The ragu was rich and meaty, and I thought the cheese added some nice flavor too.
Rigatoni alla Carbonara guanciale, egg, pecorino, black pepper
I liked the rigatoni’s chew and subtle flavors of the egg and pecorino, but I found this pasta to be a little bit less exciting than the previous two. Still, a good rendition of the carbonara.
Guinea Hen Leg al spiedo
A guinea hen leg was deboned, then wrapped in spices, lardo and proscuitto. Sounds good? It was delicious. Really tender and moist with exceptional flavor. The skin was crisped up really well too, and the meaty flavors were balanced well with some bitter greens and lentils. Probably my favorite dish of the night.
Warm Chocolate Cake maple syrup, walnuts
The cake was warm and really soft, with an almost pudding-like interior. I liked the extra depth of flavor from the maple syrup, as well as the contrast of the whipped cream.
Locanda met my expectations (which were high, given the pedigree and buzz). I found the meal somewhat similar in style to one I recently had at Cotogna, but I think I’d give a slight edge to Locanda (though, I tried a limited number of items at both). I thought the pastas were very good, and the only entree we tried was a memorable one. I look forward to trying more of the menu items sometime soon.