Last night I flew home from LA and headed straight for dinner with two of my very closest friends at a relatively new restaurant, Cotogna. Let me just say, I am absolutely shocked that after living a mere 12 blocks away - I only discovered this place for the first time last night. Before we sat down, I already knew I’d be recommending it because I judge everything by it’s cover (don’t tell me you don’t - it’s only natural). And Cotogna’s atmosphere is everything I’d dream for my fantasy rustic Italian kitchen. Upscale but not fancy or pretentious in any way, with exposed brick walls (which I LOVE), high beams, antique wooden tables, dark and dim lit with candles. Simple, but well thought out - right down to the brown butcher paper they tear off in squares & stamp individually with their logo to use as place mats.
The place was packed at 10pm, a good sign if you’re looking for a great meal. We were seated beside a savvy San Franciscan who was a regular here, she made some wonderful recommendations and we all became fast friends. By the end of the night she was giving us the inside scoop of the evening’s celebrity sitings. Apparently we had just missed Selma Blair. Yes, Sweetest Thing, Cruel Intentions, Vivian Kensington soon to be Vanderbilt, Selma Blair. Damn! I love her. And seated just behind us for the entire meal was Ichiro, or shall I say Ichi “the Hits Man” Mariner. Apparently this spot is the place to see and be seen here in SF, who knew? Again, WHY haven’t I been here before?
For the love of food, I secretly wish I were a food critic. So I suppose on here, who says I’m not? First and foremost, all wine is $40 per bottle. Amazing, right? You can actually select a wine based on flavor rather than it’s status in price. Our friendly waitress helped us select the Cortona Syrah and it was…butter; the perfect selection to go with the meal we had no idea at the time, was about to have us telling all of our friends and closest relatives that we must come back…say, Tuesday @ 8pm?
What we devoured:
Warm ricotta with cardoons & marjoram - soft and mildly sweet ricotta with mushrooms over crostini. Practically licking the ramekin it was baked in.
Grilled Asparagus with Lemon - simple and refreshing, but I think we only ordered this to feel like we acquired at least one healthy green. That one’s for you, mom.
Pappardelle with braised oxtail - Rich, sumptuous and a tasty version of what you’d expect when ordering this dish.
Gnocchi with dungeness crab & English peas - Oh for the love of carbs, this is THE ONE. There’s always one dish during a meal that is the one you rave about. This was it. So much so that the three of us literally had to sit in silence for a good few minutes to really enjoy it. There are very few things in life that are worthy of undivided attention anymore - which is sad. But sometimes, you realize that no words should interrupt the true enjoyment of every bite. Homemade gnocchi in a white cream sauce with hearty chunks of crab and green peas. Uh-maz-ing.
Had we saved room for dessert - which - if you know me at all, I ALWAYS save room for dessert, we would have had the Bomboloni with ricotta, kumquat & limoncello sauce. Petite doughnut bites dusted in sugar and cinnamon. Trust, they looked delicious, but after that incredibly rich meal, we really didn’t need anything more…and it was just perfect.
All in all, a remarkable meal with amazing friends, it was one that I’ll never forget. I’m reminded that despite diets and counting calories, if the most popular item on the menu is a carb, there’s a good reason. Sometimes, you’ve got to just let go and give into the craving. At Cotogna, I raise my glass to carbs.