Location: San Mateo
Favorite Restaurant: Perbacco
Reviewed Perbacco: Saturday, December 7, 2013
Perbacco is arguably one of the finest Italian restaurants outside of Italy. With proprietor Umberto Gibin running the dining room and his chef partner, Staffan Terje, commanding the kitchen, the duo brings to San Francisco an authentic, first class taste of Northern Italy. From the moment you enter this contemporary dining room, stylish but comfortable, you literally feel transported to a dining room in Milan – exposed brick walls, luscious red leather banquettes, a grand, vibrant bar upon entry. The place bustles with financial district energy from lunch to dinner.
While the classic architectural aesthetic and the buzz in the dining room sets the tone, extraordinary Italian food and impeccable service is the star of this restaurant. One should not visit Perbacco without staring a meal with a selection of their Salumi Peimontesi – house cured salami and meats. Their house made pastas are so special that often times I order a plate to share with my dining partner as an “intermezzo” between appetizers and entrees, though some of those dishes can certainly be made a complete meal. Perbacco’s Pappardelle pasta with slow cooked short rib ragu and grated fresh horseradish is extraordinary. I’ve also had their Spinach Pasta Rags “Stracci” with Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit and Chestnut Ragu. A great fall dish! We finished our meals with a Burnt Caramel Gelato, which I can still taste, and an interesting Fall Fruit Turnover with marinated blackberries and a brown sugar crumble. Divine and perfect!
What sets Perbacco apart from many other excellent Italian restaurants in America is their extraordinary tableside service. It all must stem from Umberto Gibin’s amazing history in the Bay Area food scene (Poggio, Scala’s, Stars) as the team of service professionals he has assembled, from servers to the wine sommelier team, is as first rate as they come. During our dinner visit, service was spot on, doting, professional and certainly enhanced the outstanding food. And that is what separates Perbacco from the rest of the pack: when a restaurant can deliver outstanding food from its kitchen with as much passion and elegance presented tableside, the experience elevates itself to the pantheon of classics.
Occupation: Office Manager
Location: San Lorenzo
Favorite Restaurant: Federicos Tapas & Wine Bar
Reviewed Perbacco: Monday, December 9, 2013
Perbacco is conveniently located in downtown San Francisco. If visiting after business hours, parking will be accessible. Host was courteous and we were seated within 5 minutes of our reservation’s time slot. Upon being seated, we were surprised to see just how close the tables were placed next to other seated guests. The noise level was remarkably loud and very hard to hear the conversation coming from among our own table. We were, however, greeted with a lovely smile from our server and a dish of sweet breadsticks accompanied by a small dish of salsa verde. After finishing the breadsticks we requested sour dough bread (by request only) which was served prompt and with sweet butter. The sourdough was hard to the outer touch (my preference) but very soft and fresh in its core.
After studying the menu for a bit, we decided to order as an appetizer: the Fritto Misto Rock Shrimp. This dish (easily shared by two) is deep-fried to perfection in a golden buttermilk batter accompanied by an assortment of mixed vegetables such as fennel, olives, waxed beans and, an added bonus, large seasoned rock shrimp, not to mention the lemon aioli dipping sauce complimented the dish perfectly. We then decided to venture out and try the Wild Mushrooms Passato/Black Truffle Mascarpone Soup. Although the presentation was beautifully done, this was not our favorite dish. It was served lukewarm and due to our naiveté of the menu, we did not expect it to be pureed. I ordered the Seared Sea Scallops, and although presentation was pleasing to the eye, my hunger level preferred a tad bit more. This dish was served in an herb aioli sauce and seared perfectly. The scallops were tender and moist; however, with a quantity of only 3, one can only be left with an unfulfilled desire for more.
Perbacco has the feel of a business office versus that of a quiet Italian restaurant. Though a novice of Italian dining, the menu was not user friendly and very complicated, thus making it difficult to order. Unfortunately, this would NOT be my TOP pick, and in my opinion not very economical. Your bang for your buck stops here.
Occupation: Advertising Photographer
Favorite Restaurant: Old Skool Café
Reviewed Perbacco: Thursday, December 12, 2013
Perbacco is easy to get to and parking is good all around, but adds to your bill. BART access is a couple of blocks away from the Embarcadero Station.
The atmosphere is pleasant, with contemporary décor and a few photographs of landscapes that appear to be in wine country and presents a fine dining feel. The noise level seems normal for any restaurant. Umberto is the owner and Brick is the manager who’s friendly and eager to please his customers at the restaurant. The serving staff is attentive without being a hovering servant and knowledgeable of the ingredients within the menu dishes. The menu changes daily and gives Chef Terje use of the seasonal food available in SF Bay Area. And finally, the service was timely with dinner plated and served hot and within 20-25 minutes. Water and bread were replenished without waving down the server.
The food presentations are done well, appetizing and the portions were satisfying without over indulging. The Pork Shoulder was moist, tender and yet browned with a crisp outer layer. The cabbage (which I normally don’t go out of my way to eat, much less order) was just the right choice to compliment the pork without overpowering the meat flavors. The appetizer salad was a mix of fresh vegetables, Buratta cheese, pomegranate, mini turnips, asparagus and lettuce with radishes and a dressing which was subtle in flavor, which ultimately enhanced the vegetables flavors.
The Hazelnut Cake had a great white chocolate hazelnut sauce and the cinnamon pears were light along with the pear sorbet being a great finishing touch (could have been twice as much without over doing it from the small teaspoon amount given). The cake could have used more sauce, being a bit dry. The sauce and sorbet were the highlights of the hazelnut cake and could use more moisture due to the cake’s dryness.
The dinner wine list looked plentiful and I chose a rich dry red Italian wine that had a deep rich flavor of oak and went well with the pork shoulder main course.