Open since late 1998, Delfina, along with The Slanted Door, defined and established the Mission as a gourmet destination. The Slanted Door moved to other parts of the City a long time ago, leaving co-owner Chef Craig and Anne Stoll’s restaurant as the grande dame of all the eating establishments in the Mission. They have since opened the very successful Pizzeria Delfina next door and Locanda Osteria a couple of blocks away, all offering great versions of Cal-Italian fare.
We had reservations, but when we saw that two seats were open at the marble bar counter, we opted for those instead. Once we perused the current menu, we noticed that there was more Southern-Italian inspired dishes than we had remembered (perhaps some influence from Locanda?). There were so many tempting items on the menu that we had a problem narrowing down the choices. We decided to go with a couple of starters and two pasta dishes when our server very helpfully suggested that we order a couple of split pasta portions followed by a full order.
The wine list had a reasonably priced 2006 Barolo from Cascina Adelaide. It was quite drinkable and offered enough acidity to pair with our meal:
From the Spuntini (snacks) part of the menu, we started with the tasty Truffled Arancini:
Each Arancini ball came stuffed with risotto and plenty of stretchy melted cheese:
The Gnocco Fritto were crunchy dough “pillows” the size of ravioli. The La Quercia Prosciutto served on top of them made for a delicious appetizer:
We made our own pasta tasting menu since our server informed us that they can provide half portions of most of their pasta dishes. The split portions are not listed on the menu, so it’s a good thing to note for future visits. The first pasta course we tried was the cheese stuffed Agnolotti flavored with black truffle in a chive burro fuso (melted butter with a little bit of stock or wine). The truffle and chive butter sauce gave the pasta a very earthy and rich flavor:
The half portion of Chitarra Nero featured squid ink pasta with strips of Mediterranean seppia (cuttlefish) and zucchini, topped with creamy Mendocino uni (sea urchin). The pasta tasted of the ocean and was very good but we could have done with less lemon juice in the sauce:
We shared the Hay & Straw pasta dish which is their version of Pasta alla Carbonara. Served with crispy bits of guanciale (pork cheek), the pasta arrived topped with egg yolk. The server quickly grated parmesan cheese on top and mixed the pasta and all of the ingredients together for us:
Heavily spiced with plenty of black pepper, this version of Carbonara was excellent. The green pasta made with stinging nettles was a nice variation taste-wise and visually:
With a solid bar program and Roman-inspired food, we believed that Locanda may have overshadowed its big sister restaurant; however, this recent meal at Delfina convinced us that the mothership is doing just fine on its own.