My dear A has impeccable taste in restaurants. Make no mistake — the girl can throw back a greasy-spoon burger with the best of us, but she also knows her fine dining. Out of all the hallowed halls in which she’s supped, she’s always eagerly recommended Chef Michael Tusk’s establishments. In fact, it was her hot tip that sent Jay and I to Quince for a phenomenal dinner. Imagine my delight when she revealed that she’d be hosting her own birthday dinner at its next door neighbor, Cotogna. While Cotogna is more casual than its Michelin-starred big sister, it certainly isn’t any less special. One step into the space and you know you’re in for a treat: soaring ceilings, exposed brick, warm wood, Heath dinnerware. The food? Every bit as tasty as the decor tasteful.
The night began with cocktails at Quince, and my girlfriends kept the wine flowing once we sat down at Cotogna. I’m no expert in a good grape, but I thoroughly enjoyed our selections: a rosato spumante and lambrusco. I can, however, identify a fantastic carb, and will therefore attest to the quality of the complimentary focaccia: pillowy, pliant, with just the right amount of chew and fragrance of olive oil. It was an excellent vehicle for our appetizers.
The Di Stefano burrata, a nightly special, came topped with sea urchin and jalapeno: cool and milky, with a nice hit of salt and spice.
This was my first time having sformato, a dish reminiscent in texture to a savory, custard-y flan. This broccoli di ciccio version came served with anchovy and Calabrian chilis. It was a perfect springtime app — light, refreshing, green.
There’s not much to say about this flavorful classic: prosciutto with juicy peaches, Star Route Farm arugula, and scattered walnuts.
We planned on sharing a burrata, tomato, and oregano pizza, but were served one with buffalo mozzarella, new-crop zucchini, and ramps instead. It was a happy accident, because we got a gracious apology and two delicious pies out of it! Who are we to complain?
I absolutely loved my friend’s tagliatelle with Devils Gulch rabbit and fiddlehead ferns, though it was a bit too meat-heavy for her typically vegetarian palate. Eaters of all stripes, however, appreciated the simple but satisfying gnocchi with pesto alla Genovese and spring shallots.
The birthday girl chose the excellent sunchoke tortelloni, stuffed with ramps and creamy caciocavallo cheese, for her main course. I went with a non-pasta dish: perfectly grilled Alaskan halibut, paired with a fresh spring vegetable ragu.
At this point, everyone around the table had some very happy, full bellies… but we are nothing if not persistent. There was no way we were leaving Cotogna without swooping in on their dessert menu.
We amused ourselves by making fun of the pretentious naming of the K&J Farm stone fruit — but fell silent once the silky, flavorful peaches and nectarines came out. Served with almond cake, passion fruit, and an unexpected (but very welcome) scoop of ice cream, this ranked as one of our favorite sweets at the table. On the darker side of things was the decadently delicious gianduja bar with pralines and dark chocolate gelato. Our two other desserts fell somewhere between these two on the spectrum of light and heavy: a clean, milky fior di latte gelato with funky saba syrup; and an utterly divine butterscotch budino draped in caramelized scotch and addictive streusel.
By the time we’d scooped the last of the budino out of its ramekin, the restaurant was winding down its busy weeknight service. The entire time, our waitstaff had been incredibly patient, attending to questions and pacing our dinner evenly. It’s clear from my experiences at both Quince and Cotogna that Michael Tusk and company run a tight ship; there was not a thing left to be desired. We were totally knocked off our feet by the quality of the food — and knocked out by the quantity. A fitting dinner for a wonderful friend!
490 Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133