SPQR is replacing a long time favorite Chez Nous for unpretentious locally inspired Italian food, with lots of antipasti and wine to choose from. It had big shoes too fill…but with all the hype, I expected great things.
Antipasti are by far the star of this restaurant choosing from cold, hot, or fried. The wild arugula salad with ricotta salata, figs and peaches was delicious and summery. The fried sardines (eaten whole) were crispy, delicate and aromatic of the sea and were served with pickled cucumbers and bean puree. The fried cauliflower was tender, crisp, with a nice lemony note and saltiness from the capers. The cecini beans were equally delicious done with onions and kale. The kale slightly disintegrated created a quasi-sauce for the beans. It was earthy, warm and flavorful.
The pastas were all quite good, but lacked in finesse that what would have been expected. The pasta is home made and keeps that feel in both presentation and flavor. A pork ragu, a tuna puttanesca, and cannelloni stuffed with beef and kale all seemed like something your grandma could make (or at least mine could make it.) While the pasta was good, the flavors were homogeneous and to be quite honest, since I love making pasta, I am uber-critical.
Dessert was not quite what we expected or wanted. The plum fritters, deep-fried plums, lacked sweetness in the batter, which was needed for the tart plums, even despite the sweet crème anglaise dipping sauce. The panna cotta was not so much a panna cotta but a parfait of cherries, chocolate pot de crème, cake, and whipped cream. While this is partly the fault of the menu, inaccurately describing the dessert, panna cotta is best without all the embellishments. Cake simply wasn’t necessary and detracted from the creamy panna cotta. To be honest the panna cotta lacked all gelatin, so more of a pot de crème, yet not creamy enough to be able to be called such.
Overall, go there; get some wine, and delicious antipasti. Perhaps SPQR has the curse of Chez Nous, excellent small plates. Hey, I don’t think anyone would mind that curse.
1911 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA