Living in San Francisco, I have seen tons of friends move here…only to move away. With the high cost of real estate, space limitations, and family unfriendliness (read: not cheap — for anything, including education unless you roll your dice in the lottery for a public school that you pray is near your home), I have seen, time and time again, people move for greener (and larger) pastures. So it’s a darn right surprise when a friend moves to San Francisco. One such friend from undergrad moved here from New York. But alas, her stay in San Francisco proper was short-lived and she moved to Oakland (really, how could she do that me?). Nevertheless, being separated by a bridge (and a half, given the construction) is better than a 5 hour plane ride.
A date with her and her significant other was long overdue and I was anxious to try Barbacco, on my hit list since a wonderful meal at big sis restaurant, Perbacco. Barbacco is a modern trattoria, meant to be a casual place where you can enjoy Italian cuisine from many different regions. The vibe is young (but not too young), hip, and cool. You select your wines off an IPad, sit a tables cut at angles, and enjoy convivial and even engaging service. Straight to the point, the ambiance here is fun, fresh, and real. Whoever you are, you will feel comfortable here.
We started with a variety of small plates, including the cheese platter and salumi platter. We selected the aged provolone, nicasio square, and red wood hill cheeses. We purposely selected the provolone because it seemed so basic — there must be a reason why it’s on the menu. And there was. Because it was delicious, with a nice sharp salt to it that was almost crusty at times. The chef’s salumi platter was gratifying, giving you exactly what you’d expect but with some serious quality behind it; I favored the piccante for its fiery kick, but there were no losers here.
I also couldn’t resist ordering some bruschette (truffled lardo and duck pâté with balsamic marmellata). Both delicious, it was the truffled lardo that held my heart (and even made it stop for a second, probably). The lardo almost smoldered in my mouth, with sensuous fattiness, some smokiness, and a creamy earthy saltiness from the truffles. Pretty darn good, and worth the 10 pounds I gained from eating it.
To provide some contrast to the heaviness of the lardo, we ordered the duck sausage with lentils. Haha (wow, a sarcastic food blog). The trophy winner in this dish was the lentils, if you can believe it. They were just perfect, pulling in some of the flavor of the duck fat and giving some nice texture yet not nearly as heavy as I anticipated.
And in all seriousness, we did need something to cut the richness of what we ordered. A citrus salad with fennel provided a nice contrast, although really, it really served only as a palate cleanser for me. I also ordered the crudo (yellowtail) as a foil, and although not pictured here, it was a nice light bite to contrast the heavier dishes.
Then off to the mains. Husband ordered the polpette (shocking, as he once extolled the virtues of Buca di Beppo because of the size of their meatballs). The ‘balls were lovely, mostly due to the addition of pine nuts and raisins, which made the dish more satisfying both in complexity and its sweet savoriness.
I ordered the mussels with nduja with chili and garlic. The mussels were, well, mussels, but the broth was fantastic with smoky heat. Nduja is a soft spreadable salami, but in the dish, acted almost like a ground meat texturally.
The desserts were nothing elaborate and gelato for everyone at the table was the right call. If only the gelato had some pork cracklins on top, it’d be perfect (kidding…well, maybe not).
I know I prefaced this review saying that this place has a great atmosphere, but I want to revisit that momentarily. With accessible but delightful food, unpretentious service, and a fun vibe, Barbacco is a place where you’re allowed to have fun. You can laugh from your belly, not worry if you spill a little wine, and not care if your neighbors hear your dirty jokes. So if you’re looking for a good time, Barbacco is a gratifying booty call.
On the personal front, I was asked about the Tiger Mom phenomenon (you know, me being 1) Chinese, 2) a perpetual achiever — achiever, I said, not obtainer of success, and 3) having 3 young boys). I sort of laughed it all off, and despite being Chinese and aware of the Chinese parenting philosophy — or strategies — I answered that I am far too California and instead, parent in my “hippy dippy” way that is totally foreign to my husband, our families, and sometimes, even myself. That said, I feel strongly about this one: Really, can’t we moms just give each other a break? Can’t we just be a community, instead of trying to rip each other down judging about who works, who doesn’t, who lets who watch television, who gives gummy bears as potty treats, and all that crap. I don’t know about you people, but for me, it’s just about survival at this point. I don’t have the time or energy to spend worrying about what you do; I’m just trying to make sure I’m not mucking up!
Bauer’s two cents here.