World-Class Pasta and Unique Bar Bites Make for Winning Combo at Sorella

Redesigned with a new concept, Acquerello‘s six-month-old sister restaurant in Polk Gulch is a winner, offering Acquerello-level pasta and excellent bar bites alongside cocktails, great wine, and a huge selection of Amaro.

San Francisco has never been short of good pasta, and our abundance and breadth of options means there are multiple levels and regional types of pasta experiences to explore. Mark Bittman of the New York Times identified a decade ago that San Francisco’s historical Italian immigrant community has given way to deep ties to Italy — and it’s no mistake that what has come to be known as “California cuisine” is essentially “Italian-dominated Mediterranean” cuisine, as Bittman puts it. And so he argued that San Francisco could be the “world’s best city for regional Italian food” — like a city-sized food court where you can sample from many regions of Italy in the same day, which you can’t even really do in Italy.

Bittman noted the dedication to authentic Piedmontese cuisine Perbakthe excellent Sardinian cuisine of La Ciccia as well as the Neapolitan and Roman dishes Delphina and Dolphina Pizzeria. But there are many other examples of where SF restaurants have ventured deep into regions of Italy, including North Beach’s Daflora (Venice), SPQR (Milan and other regions), Montesacro Pinseria (Rome), Locanda (RIP, Rome), Cotogna (Emilia-Romagna, Bologna and others), A16 (Campania, Puglia, Naples), cafe sports (Sicily), Bakery Liguriaand the former Farina (Liguria).

Acquerello – which earned longtime chef Suzette Gresham two Michelin stars – has always been more luxurious in its take on northern Italian cuisine and such quince will offer unique, handcrafted pastas in rich, nuanced sauces to complement other high-end courses.

at Sorella (meaning ‘sister’ in Italian) on Polk Street, the team led by chef Denise St Onge – with the help of Acquerello chef Seth Turiansky, to whom St Onge is also married – has moved from the averted international amalgam from 1760 (the previous incarnation of space). Perhaps wisely, they’ve doubled down on Italy, offering a selection of small plates, divine pastas, and a handful of larger entrees, expanding the width of the bar area by a few feet to accommodate more people standing on busy nights and weekends.

Photo courtesy of Sorella

There is an emphasis on Italy’s ritualism Aperitivo culturewith a selection of cicchetti (like tapas or bar snacks) only available at the bar – and cicchetti themselves are a product of Venetian bar culture, served in bacari or wine bars.

That Cicchetti Options Sorella includes potato chips dusted with Cacio-e-Pepe, sausage-stuffed fried olives, some excellent anchovy toast and oysters of the day garnished with a pale sea bean and finger lime mignonette. And there’s a chicken wing stuffed with Calabrian sausage inspired by Thai-style “angel wings.” Esser just highlighted in this week. The main restaurant’s menu also includes small plates like veal meatballs, warm Parmesan budino, and spicy grilled calamari served with zucchini and a shrimp and ‘Nduja sausage.

All of this makes for a fun cocktail experience if that’s all you’re there for, and the bartenders are knowledgeable about the wide range of Italian spirits, including Italian-made gins and lots and lots of Amari. The cocktail menu includes an Amaro Highball as well as a terrific Amaro Sour, frothy with rye, averna, lemon, sage syrup, creme de violette and bitters.

But damn the noodles. Most of us don’t often get to swing the potential thousand-dollar bill that goes with dinner at Acquerello. Thankfully, Sorella now serves pasta good enough and interesting enough to be offered as a course at its swankier, older sister restaurant — and dare I say more unique and intensely flavored than most pastas you can find in San Francisco.

Spring Pea Cappellacci. Photo by Jay Barman/SFist

The menu changes with the seasons, but the spring selection includes a heavenly spring pea cappellacci — a stuffed, hat-shaped pasta traditionally from Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region, traditionally stuffed with pumpkin — stuffed with mushy peas and served here with miso, pecorino fiore sardo, dill and poppy seeds. The squid linguini are served in a rich, flavorful sauce with lobster and tomato confit. Stuffed, perfectly tender agnoletti are stuffed with short rib and served in a buttery sauce with morels, broad beans and black garlic. And fiorentini — another not-often-seen shape, a sort of torn and twisted rigatoni — is served with a saffron- and berbere-spiced lamb bolognese, topped with pepper soffritto and ricotta salad.

Hopefully one dish that’s here to stay, as it’s arguably the star of the show, the dry-aged beef timballo — a lasagna-like, layered creation with an umami-rich meat mixture, topped with thin sheets of Comté cheese and served on a rustic tomato sauce. If it weren’t so rich, I’d say I could eat three of these in one sitting.

The Dry Aged Beef Timballo. Photo courtesy of Sorella

There are also larger dishes like lamb ossobucco and a grilled pork chop, but these are only for group dining or when someone is doing Paleo.

I don’t think there is another restaurant in town where you could have a pasta experience of this caliber while sitting at the bar with a delicious Italian red wine or an aperitivo. Most of the other options out there are either simpler in terms of pasta or a lot less casual in terms of atmosphere and what is expected of you.

For that reason alone, we can be thankful that this new restaurant has reached out to us, offering San Francisco another angle on Italy that we didn’t know was needed.

Sorella1760 Polk Street in Washington – Open Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m

For budgetary reasons, SFist editors and contributors occasionally accept free meals from restaurants and their publicists. More often than not, we pay for our meals out of our own pockets. While we most of time Don’t write formal reviews, we strive to keep our opinions of restaurants objective, focusing more on the food and ambience than service to offset any bias.

World-Class Pasta and Unique Bar Bites Make for Winning Combo at Sorella Source link World-Class Pasta and Unique Bar Bites Make for Winning Combo at Sorella

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