Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hungry Dog Reviews: La Ciccia

Is it Ok to review a restaurant after one visit? What the hell, I'm doing it.

One of my best friends, AM, recently moved out of the city, down to the peninsula. She now lives with her man in a pretty little home, sort of in the woods, with a big backyard for barbecuing. They're outdoorsy, so they can ride their bikes from their house to all kinds of beautiful destinations without navigating traffic and grime like they would have to in San Francisco.

She digs it. But, she misses the city. And I miss her! So, we make a point to meet at least once a month up here for dinner.

Often we go to Gialina. It's right off 280, so quick for her to get to, and we both love the pizza, particularly the one with nettles and pancetta. But last week when we made our monthly plan, we decided to try something new. We chose La Ciccia in Noe Valley.

Located at the intersection of Church and 30th, this really is the edge of Noe, and drifting into the realm of the outer Mission and northern Glen Park. I should know, because I used to live one block from this intersection, in a building which obscured the legendary Chenery House. Chenery House is an enormous mansion which occupies the center of the block, not visible from Chenery, 30th, San Jose, or Randall. I could write a whole post about living next to the Chenery House, famous for its Labor Day parties featuring Tammy Faye Baker and an indoor swimming pool on the second floor...but this blog is about food.

We left this neighborhood over three years ago for the howling winds of Twin Peaks. Not long after we left, La Ciccia opened where Verona Restaurant closed. Now that I've eaten at La Ciccia, I'm wondering how we can get back to the old 'hood.

The restaurant is owned by Italians--Sardinians, really, and so it makes sense that the small, focused menu is largely seafood. We started with a warm seafood salad, mild yet flavorful in a pool of fruity olive oil, which we mopped up with crusty bread. We then moved on to fregula with seafood and squid ink, which we'd both honed in on the menu immediately.

You know how some dogs are ugly-cute? Or how ornate architecture can be beautiful-hideous? The fregula was lovely-scary. It arrived inky, inky black, in a stark white bowl, with a scatter of parsley. At first, the fregula was impossible to distinguish from the seafood, although we quickly began to identify squid, octopus, and other perfectly-cooked bits from the sea. The consistency was like a risotto--creamy, but al dente.

The more we ate of this fregula, the more the flavors deepened. It was a dish that throughout the rest of the dinner, I kept thinking back on and wishing I had more of. Everything else we ordered was also excellent--a thin-crust "white" pizza with grilled radicchio and sopprasetta, a side of braised lettuces, hazelnut gelato. But I couldn't stop thinking about the squid ink fregula.

The wine list is apparently something to be admired, according to the Wine Spectator and other experts. It's extensive and completely Italian. AM and I knew none of the wines on the list, but our waitress was happy to answer our questions, as well as provide us with tastes before ordering.

All in all, the food was outstanding, the service friendly, and the atmosphere warm but not clausterphobic, a feat for a space that is extremely small and narrow. It's a restaurant you'd like to go on a date to, either with someone you already love, or someone you can get to know based on how they respond to a steaming bowl of black pasta. The Hungry Dog gives La Ciccia an A.

La Ciccia is located at 291 30th Street in San Francisco.


  1. Great review! There's nothing wrong with reviewing after one visit, sometimes that's all it takes to at least know whether or not you'd come back again.

  2. I'll add it to my list of places to visit. Thanks for the review. Yum!

  3. hoodscope: Thank you! You should check it out.

    Cee: Let's go together? With JB?

  4. hello, lovely website! I don't know what fregula is but now I must have some! I lived on 24th street for many years and really miss that part of the world. sounds like a delicious restaurant.

  5. Thank you, foodhoe! Yes, lovely Noe Valley, I really miss it. Let me know if you find some fregula for yourself!