Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Incanto is one of my favorite places in San Francisco. It has an atmosphere that is both sophisticated and comfortable, and every aspect of the restaurant reflects the personality and passion of Mark, its owner. Incanto has a top chef and an outstanding staff, but it is Mark's attention to detail, insistence on the freshest ingredients and obsession with Italian cuisine that make Incanto such a memorable dining experience.

Last night’s dinner was the final in Incanto’s Summer Sagra series, and it featured the fig. I love figs, so I was more than pleased to be able to taste five varieties from Knoll Farms, an organic, sustainable local producer. My description of our menu follows, but my hope is that my many foodie friends who were in attendance add comments. Perhaps the collective result can match the quality of our evening.

Our meal began with mixed figs with marscarpone and basil. Included were the Adriatic fig (medium green), the Kadota and the Melissa (brown skin with white dots). Basil and figs may seem like an odd couple, but it worked beautifully. The figs were perfectly ripe and the basil managed to accentuate their freshness.

Next up were grilled Brown Turkey figs with chicken liver and pancetta. Cured meats are a specialty at Incanto, and the thinly sliced pancetta was a nice match for the exploding flavor of the Brown Turkey figs.

Complimenting our first two courses was the Rosso Conero Fibbio from Lanari that I have mentioned before. However, for our third course, we switched to the Salento Bianco Metiusco from Palama. Its fruit and oak were wonderful with the fig leaf-wrapped halibut and roasted figs.

The halibut was cooked perfectly and earned rave reviews from the table. But, it was the vanilla-infused salt prepared for the dish that provoked the most discussion. We all wanted to ask for some to take home but we were too shy.

Our Black Mission fig and hazelnut crostata dessert was solid as well. The pastry was delicious and the 15-year balsamic and whipped cream together proved to be inspired combination with the figs. Mark stopped by for a vist and was too generous in bringing us glasses of Cascina Ca` Rossa’s Birbet. It is deep ruby in color and effervescent with a sweet, addictive flavor, and it is not to be missed on your next visit to Incanto.

In the 4 ½ years since it opened critics have taken note, and they have lavished Incanto with praise and awards. The greatest signs of success, though, are the familiar faces of Incanto’s Noe Valley neighbors that return for meals so often. If you have never been to Incanto, go. The staff will make you feel like you are dining at the home of an old friend. And if you haven’t been back in a while, make the reservation and don’t be surprised when Mark is at the door to greet you.

Incanto: 1550 Church St, San Francisco, CA (415) 641-4500