From Sardinia, With Love - The Soulful Dishes of La Ciccia [Thoughts + Pics]

#1

If there was one restaurant we were looking forward to the most on this trip, it was La Ciccia. It was at first, quietly mentioned by @robert last year when we were looking for recommendations in SF. It sounded interesting - Sardinian cuisine - but we stupidly thought that it must’ve just been a variation on “Italian food.” :sweat_smile:

But after @robert @PorkyBelly @BradFord @ipsedixit all recommended this place (over other restaurants we were thinking about going to, including a Michelin 3 Star), we knew it was a must try. After this evening’s visit, I can only say, I’m so glad we finally made it out to La Ciccia. :slight_smile:

Opened 13 years ago by a charming husband-and-wife duo of Chef Massimiliano Conti and his wife, Lorella Degan who runs the front of the house, La Ciccia - from the outside and inside - has the feel of a warm, inviting neighborhood gem.

Lorella was checking in on seemingly every table, making sure the guests were having an enjoyable time, and she reminded me of a sweet, doting grandmother, making sure you had enough to eat. :slight_smile:

Pani Guttiau (Traditional Sardinian Flat Bread Baked with EVOO and Pecorino):

This was really interesting, a Handmade Sardinian Flat Bread, arriving super thin and crispy. I liked the bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the funk of Percorino in each bite.

Prupisceddu in Umidu cun Tomatiga (Baby Octopus Stew in a Spicy Tomato Sauce):

I’ve never had Sardinian food before, so I don’t have a frame of reference, but this was absolutely incredible! :blush: I’ve never tasted anything like this before: The subtle brininess balanced out by this amazing Tomato Stew flavor, the type of beautiful taste that can only be gained by slow cooking. This was a real Stew and the punch of Calabrian Chili Pepper, with an immediate heat that was warming, spicy, but not overwhelming just made us feel even more at home. I LOVED THIS! :heart:

Maccarones de Busa cun Arrizzonis (Sardinian Maccaroni, Sea Urchin, Tomato, Grated Tuna Heart):

This Handmade Sardinian Pasta was unique from the moment it arrived: It had an enticing smell of the ocean (in a good way), with pliant, tender, but still firm enough Handmade Maccaroni Pasta. While we could taste a bit of the Sea Urchin, it was in the background to the Shaved Tuna Heart, which was briny and salty.

Spaghittusu cun Allu Ollu e Bottariga (Fresh Spaghetti, Spicy Garlic Oil, Salt Cured Fish Roe):

And then we get to this. Taking a bite…

C’mon! Really?! Are you serious?! There was a serious deep, sensory stunning blend of flavors that was simply AWESOME! :blush:

I’ve had Bottarga before, I’ve had Pasta with Spicy Garlic Oil before, but this particular recipe, the beautiful brininess of the Bottarga (Salt Cured Fish Roe), was of a quality I’d never had before. The perfect blending and integrating into amazing Handmade Spaghetti (truly a great al dente), the fragrant Garlic, a bit of spice.

It was PERFECTION! :heart:

@paranoidgarliclover while Pasta Sisters has that charming feel of eating in someone’s house, this Bottarga Pasta is like eating at your Grandma’s house, if your Grandma was Sardinian, every dish made with love. :blush: (@CiaoBob @TheCookie @Bookwich don’t miss this.)

Pezza de Angioni a sa Saba (Seared Lamb Tenderloin Tagliata, Drizzled with Saba):

Their Seared Lamb Tenderloin arrived a nice medium-rare, very tender, only lightly gamy, but delicious either way. :slight_smile: The Saba (Must / Grape Reduction) added an interesting sweetness to each bite.

The slow-cooked Radicchio was quite unique: Still retaining some of the inherent bitterness, but evened out with some funk of Pecorino on top.

We were stuffed at this point, having gone to Mensho Tokyo beforehand to try and attempt a bang-bang, :sweat_smile: but Lorella graciously brought out some seasonal Gelato, free of charge, thanking us for visiting. :slight_smile:

Goat Cheese & Fig Gelato:

The Goat Cheese was unmistakable, but the funk didn’t overwhelm, and the Fig’s natural sweetness balanced things out even more.

La Ciccia turned out to be everything and more that we had hoped for. From so many strong recommendations by trusted FTC’ers, we had heightened expectations and La Ciccia met those expectations and exceeded them. We always hope to run into another “Best Bite!” moment when dining out, but more often than not, it usually doesn’t happen.

So it’s even more rare when we got 2 Best Bite moments over the course of this humble, down-to-earth dinner. The Baby Octopus Stew in Spicy Tomato Sauce is just incredible.

But it’s the Sardinian Handmade Spaghetti, Bottarga and Spicy Garlic Oil that is quite simply one of the greatest Pastas I’ve ever had. This is better than anything I had at Felix, Republique and Bestia, all much-lauded places that wished it could deliver a Pasta as great as this one. Thank you @PorkyBelly @robert @ipsedixit @BradFord @beefnoguy and all! :blush:

La Ciccia
291 30th Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
Tel: (415) 550 8114

http://www.laciccia.com/

Update 1:

There are times when you’ve enjoyed a bite of food that is so great, you almost don’t want to try it again, for fear that it’s not as good as before and your impression of a restaurant becomes tarnished. So there was initially some hesitancy in thinking about returning to La Ciccia, this quiet, seemingly simple Sardinian restaurant in an unassuming part of town. After all, the last time we were here, it was something sublime.

As we walk in, it is as warm and charming as before. Run by the husband-and-wife duo of Chef Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan, Lorella welcomes us as an Italian grandma might welcome her grandchildren in from the outside cold to sit and enjoy some food at dinner time. :slight_smile:

Calamareddusu Arrustiusu cun Frabiga (Roasted Monterey Calamari, Basil Oil, Greens):

Perfectly cooked, tender Calamari with a light chew. There was an incredible infusion of flavor where sometimes Calamari and Octopus might come off as bland (with just a taste on the outside), but somehow Chef Conti performs magic on the Calamari. The Basil Oil was a perfect complement and the simple Greens were extremely fresh and vibrant, tasting like they were just delivered from the local farmers market (not an afterthought). :heart:

(Special) Rigatoni & Veal Ragu (Veal Ragu, Prosciutto, Olives, Ricotta Salata):

A fitting dish for La Ciccia: Slow stewed Veal Ragu that imparts such a depth of flavor that can only be gotten from this type of cooking. It is satisfying. It’s meaty. Perfectly balanced in flavors, it is one of the best Ragu Pastas I’ve had since Leo Bulgarini’s! It is that good, and better than any of the variations on Meat Ragu at more celebrated places like Felix. :heart:

Spaghittusu cun Allu Ollu e Bottariga (Fresh Spaghetti, Spicy Oil, Garlic, Cured Fish Roe):

And then it arrived. The dish that when we ate it last year, was so stunning, so transformative, that I was scared that it was merely a dream; an illusion that would never reach the same heights again. Taking a bite…

If you were ever skeptical or curious about what Japanese Chemist Kikunae Ikeda was talking about, when he first described the 5th basic taste known as “Umami,” then look no further than this dish:

As the first bite hits your mouth, a wave of incredible happiness washes over you. You may have had Bottarga (Cured Fish Roe), but nothing like this. It is a pure flavor bomb of beautiful brininess, fragrant Garlic, a light spiciness, but something much more.

It is elemental. I was literally drooling while eating this dish. It was mouthwateringly awesome. Before I knew it, I found myself slurping long strands of the perfectly al dente Handmade Spaghetti as if I was eating Ramen. But I didn’t care, because by then, I was staring at an empty plate and looking longingly at the other half across the table.

JUST SO GOOD! :heart: :heart: :heart:

One of the greatest plates of Pasta we’ve ever eaten, and this one dish made the entire San Francisco trip worth it! Yes, that’s how incredible this was! :heart: :blush: :heart:

Or, my reaction told via emojis:

:no_mouth: :open_mouth: :partying_face: :heart_eyes: :revolving_hearts: :heart:

(Special) Suckling Pig Brasato:

When we heard our waiter say the words, “Suckling Pig…” I instantly blurted out “OK.” :smile: Chef Massimiliano was making a special this evening doing a Brasato of Suckling Pig(!). :open_mouth: However it wasn’t going to be roasted (as my mind instantly thought of the sublime Roasted Suckling Pig we had at Monterey Palace), but done in a Brasato-style preparation.

Taking a bite: Spoon tender, succulent, luscious meaty morsels of Suckling Pig, slow braised for hours in a Tomato, Saffron and Mushroom Sauce.

It was INCREDIBLE! :heart:

I normally try to limit carbs, but we demolished our complimentary basket of Bread sopping it up in this amazing Suckling Pig Brasato Sauce! :blush: It was ridiculous how good this was! :heart:

Roasted Artichokes:

The Suckling Pig Special came with a side of Roasted Artichokes which were nicely cooked and tasty.

Service is warm and relaxed, and ambiance-wise it’s as quiet or loud as the guests are; generally moderate noise levels at most.

La Ciccia continues to impress with its stunning menu of Sardinian dishes. Chef Massimiliano Conti may not be some world-renowned Michelin starred personality, but his cooking delivers so much joy and satisfaction that that alone is reason enough to celebrate.

From the delicious Prupisceddu in Umidu cun Tomatiga (Baby Octopus Stew in a Spicy Tomato Sauce), to the Calamareddusu Arrustiusu cun Frabiga (Roasted Monterey Calamari, Basil Oil, Greens), and outstanding Pastas like the Rigatoni & Veal Ragu (Special), and the Suckling Pig Brasato (Special), La Ciccia is already more enjoyable than most “celebrated” Italian restaurants we’ve been to in recent years.

But take one bite of their Spaghittusu cun Allu Ollu e Bottariga (Fresh Spaghetti, Spicy Oil, Garlic, Cured Fish Roe), and you will find something so soulful, so moving, so stunning, that all you can do is bask in the moment of pure joy, wish you had La Ciccia in your neighborhood, and begin planning your next trip to San Francisco to experience it all again.

(Thanks again robert @ipsedixit @PorkyBelly @beefnoguy @BradFord.)

La Ciccia
291 30th Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
Tel: (415) 550 8114

http://www.laciccia.com/

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#2

Great report and so glad you liked it. That octopus and spaghetti are ridiculously good, nothing like it in la. The squid ink linguine is another winner.

Are they allowing pictures now?

2 Likes
#3

La Ciccia’s certainly not fancy, but given the level of the cooking and wine list, I wouldn’t call it humble.

Michelin is full of shit as far as Italian restaurants go.

1 Like
#4

Hi @PorkyBelly,

Thank you SO much for the recommendations! :blush: We owe you a debt for prodding us to try these great dishes! :slight_smile:

Pics: I think so. I saw a note on the menu about kindly refraining from camera and laptop, etc. So we did. Then 2 tables around us busted out their cell phones and started taking pics and sharing emails (talking about the bar they were going to next).

Lorella seemed to know both tables and even stopped by (while they were taking pictures and looking at emails) and chatted it up with them.

So at that point I just took that as an implicit OK to take a few photos discreetly. :wink:

I’ll definitely get the Squid Ink Linguine next time (in addition to the Bottarga Spaghetti again! :slight_smile:.

2 Likes
#5

Thanks @robert. Sorry I should clarify that by “humble” I just mean the opposite of stuffy, arrogant / cocky servers or having “haute cuisine” vibe. I loved La Ciccia. :slight_smile:

What else do you recommend getting?

1 Like
#6

Yeah, that bottarga is pretty amazing.

1 Like
#7

Great report! I was there this weekend, too. Great meal - we stick with the pastas and seafood apps (excellent sweet prawns and Monterey Bay calamari), a good bottle of Capichera vermentino, and walk out very happy.

We liked the:

  • grilled calamari app
  • grilled sweet prawns app
  • baby octopus stew
  • squid ink fresh linguine
  • bottarga spaghetti
  • sea urchin fregula
3 Likes
#8

That whole meal looks AMAZING. :smiley:

1 Like
#9

Hi @BradFord,

Thanks for your additional recs! :slight_smile: It really seems they really excel at seafood. I made a note to try those new dishes you mentioned. Thanks again. :slight_smile:

#10

Yeah this is one of the crown jewels of SF dining, definitely at the top of the heap as far as quality and satisfaction goes and without pretentiousness.

The octopus stew is spectacular, so much that I once got an extra order to go (add some pasta for it at home).

The spaghetti bottarga is excellent with the right amount of spice (and so addicting).

They had a roasted cauliflower dish once, and it was supreme.

Their very affordable Sardinian wines are great, you can always get a recommendation from waitstaff, whether red or white. Any of their recommended Cannonau cannot go wrong (even by the glass).

4 Likes
#11

The only thing I didn’t recommend at La Ciccia were the pizzas, and they took those off the menu.

I favor the seafood dishes, but he does a great job with lamb, pork, and vegetables as well.

1 Like
#12

robert, I’m trying to remember. Back in the olden days, was that space a pizza place? And not a very good one? Ah, yes, back when no one knew where Noe Valley was :smile:

#13

Yes, it was called Verona Pizza. Good or bad I don’t know. I lived at 26th and Church and went by it plenty of times but never went there.

http://www.sfweekly.com/dining/sardini-yum/

#14

Love the article!

We were on Vicksburg between Jersey and 25th so had options on 24th Street, none all that great IIRC but I wasn’t a big fan of the pizza back in those days.

#15

Yeah, we used to get delivery from Cybelle’s.

#16

Ah, a name out of the past.

#17

Only photo I got from a lovely meal with old friends last week: giant patagonian red shrimp.

2 Likes
#18

Hi @robert,

That looks delicious! How were they? :slight_smile:

#19

Anybody (@beefnoguy, @BradFord) want to be my octopus stew and spaghetti bottarga eating proxy? I have a reservation this saturday 2/23 at 6pm for 2 available.

#20

Thanks for the invite, sorry can’t make it!