Do you remember that behemoth vintage oven we showed you back in November, the focal point of MONTESACRO, the Tenderloin/SoMa enoteca from Gianluca Legrottaglie? Well, that former baking beauty is all lit up, and it’s a jaw-dropping backdrop in this exceedingly charming pinseria romana/enoteca that just opened last night on Stevenson (a few doors down from Dottie’s). Legrottaglie, a partner and the wine director at the nearby 54 Mint, is a Roman who wants to pay homage to the Montesacro quarter—a hardscrabble Roman neighborhood where he worked for six years. (He says the Tenderloin reminds him a lot of that place.)
Legrottaglie also wants to introduce San Franciscans to the pinsa, an ancient style of flatbread—he uses Italian soy, rice, and wheat flour that he imports from Rome and is all GMO-free. The dough rises for 72 hours, and the dough balls are stretched by hand with rice flour and pressed to order into an oval shape, topped, and baked in the Cuppone oven for 90 seconds—it yields a crisp crust that is also light, with an enduring flavor that is unlike any dough you have tasted in SF. And since it’s not 100 percent wheat, it’s easier to digest as well (it’s also lower in fat and calories). And you won’t find burnt flour on the crust like you do from a brick oven—the Cuppone is an advanced electric oven that bakes very clean.
This ancient ancestor of pizza was sold outside Rome’s city walls, made by peasants who kneaded cereals (like millet, barley, oats, and spelt), salt, and herbs, and then pressed it (pinsa comes from the Latin for “pressed”) into an oval shape and seared it on hot coals. Let’s just say Virgil wrote about pinsa; is that old enough for you?
But this enoteca balances the past and present remarkably well. As soon as you walk in, it feels like such a discovery, with tall ceilings, a variety of seating areas, and an eclectic style that suits the old space very well. There is a communal table at the front, and tables with colorful vintage chairs from Indonesia in the 1950s that Legrottaglie found (the base of some of the larger tables are old sewing machines). The original colorful floor tiles, which are more than 100 years old, are a cool remnant from the space’s recently uncovered past history as a bakery that was once connected to a restaurant.
The pizza oven is toward the front, purposefully placed there so you can smell the pinsas baking upon entering. Toward the back is a wine bar, equipped with a classic Faema E61, more seating, and the glowing old oven (which is not in use, but lit up beautifully inside—it dates back to 1912-1914 or thereabouts). The walls feature vintage educational scenes from Rome that Legrottaglie actually found locally (one even includes a picture of the school he went to, such serendipity).
Legrottaglie has brought over two Roman pizzaioli, Claudio Gaetani and Alessandro Delle Rose, who have both been making pizzas (and pinsas) for more than five years. On the menu, you will find an array of 10 pinsas, like the capricciosa-like Centocelle ($17, mozzarella, tomato, artichokes, mushroom, olives, egg, prosciutto) and the Montesacro ($16, stracciatella, kale, peperoncini, garum). I can’t wait to return for the Pietralata ($19, mozzarella, bottarga, marjoram, extra-virgin olive oil)—the color of the bottarga they were shaving on top was marigold yellow. Fans of an amatriciana will enjoy the Quadraro ($17, tomato, red onion, pancetta, pecorino). You can cut it into pieces and share, and it’s very easy to pick up with your hands.
Also on the menu: some quality salumi and cheeses (choose 1 for $6, 3 for $15), or go for the mixed platter for $22. There are five kinds of salads, plus an array of vegetables under oil, like zucchini and eggplant, and lunchtime will feature three kinds of classic panini for $11 (including gambuccio e stracchino: prosciutto shank and soft crescenza cheese). There are also some desserts, like pinsa stuffed with Nutella and mascarpone. The menu is designed to be flexible and enjoyed throughout the day and evening, whether you want a small bite after work or dishes to share with friends over wine.
Speaking of wine, the international wine list extends beyond Italy, including other European selections, plus California and even New Zealand. I’m happy with the three sparkling choices, and there are some unique beers as well. Of course Legrottaglie will be pouring wines by the glass that aren’t even on the list, so it’s always good to talk and see what bottles he has open.
Hours for now are 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-11pm (we’ll keep you posted on when it’s open continuously all day). Meet your new hangout! 510 Stevenson St. at 6th St., 415-795-3040.
The Quadraro pinsa at Montesacro. All photos: © tablehopper.com.