Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

I’m just a dumb country boy, and I get my hipster fill after ten minutes in SF’s Mission district–is that individual wearing a scoutmaster’s uniform as an ironic statement about retro-Smallville, faux-military plumage, or just on the way to a weekly meeting?  And it doesn’t take much longer to become inundated with Italian food.  The restaurant names generally end with a vowel and are Italian-esque words of nebulous origin, and each seems to be a lesser cousin–of the same bloodline, but short a couple of chromosomes–of the long-reigning champ, Delfina.

OR SO I THOUGHT.  I’m wrong a lot of the time, and most recently when I was taken to dinner at a Sardinian restaurant waaayyy out in the Mission called La Ciccia.  The hostess nearly hugged us when we walked in.  The room was dim, with no tattooed staff or exposed ductwork in sight.  Capital letters on the bottom of the menu forbade cell phone and computer use, and the long wine list–one page of 4-point font–was all Italian.

The gentleman waiter paced our dinner perfectly, and whisked away a too-maderized bottle of Cannonau he had recommended and replaced it with a bright Nero d’Avola.  Standout dishes were the sardines, gnochetti with pork bagna, and sea bream with tapenade.  I am always impressed when hot food is served HOT, and ours was scalding.

But the best part was the atmosphere.  Table spacing kept the noise level suitable for conversation, soft surfaces muted the offensive jokes before they could be overheard, the ambient light had the ladies sparkling.  White tablecloths reminded us we were in a Restaurant, not a bar/club/pizzeria.  Old world dining, old fashioned, and you know what?  Civilized and pleasant for that reason.

And before anyone else points it out, yeah yeah, La Ciccia is at 30th and Church, which may not even BE in the Mission, depending on who draws the map.



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