“San Francisco has only one drawback. ”Tis hard to leave.” – Rudyard Kipling.
That Rudyard really knew what he was talking about. I came to Berkeley in 1997 and left San Francisco exactly a decade later. Each time I return for a visit (usually about 2-3 times a year, if I’m lucky) I’m at once filled with a wave of nostalgia… excitement… inspiration… and then of course, hunger. Some of my very best memories were in the Bay and a great deal of who I am now took shape there.
San Francisco is a great city full of contrasts. It possesses intelligent, open-minded and forward-looking people who remain deeply aware of their city’s incredible storied past. It manages to maintain a nice balance of both deliciously innovative and reassuringly authentic foods. It offers breathtakingly beautiful public spaces while also allowing for private almost sacred moments. It’s a city that doesn’t mind sharing itself — with the hordes of tourists and the steady stream of academics, artists and scientists who all feed off the city and its inhabitants. In short, I’m a fan and here are some pictures to prove it.
Okay, wait. Hold up, hold up…stop the music. Is that delicious artisan pizza I see being prepared? Why, yes it is. Where is this lovely place you ask? In Jackson Square, site of the notorious Barbary Coast, a.k.a hotbed of prostitution, gambling and crime? Yes, but that was ages ago, (160 years or so) and now with all the hoity-toity antique stores and art galleries, you would never know.
Cotogna was a fitting place to dine not only because it was walking distance from my friends’ lovely abode, but also since I was listening to an audiobook on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and was really feeling it and loving the fact that I was walking around the same neighborhoods vividly described in the book. I also used to work around the corner at an advertising school, so it was a very familiar neighborhood I like to revisit.
Cotogna is a newcomer to the SF restaurant scene. It is heralded as the less stuck-up sibling to Quince, an Italian fine dining establishment (translation: pricey with tiny portions), where, if I can just mention, the Quince waiter actually grabbed the spoon out of my hand the last time I was there to clean up. There I said it. No hard feelings or anything Quince. I just hate you a tiny bit. But that was at your old Pac Heights locale, so maybe since your move, you’ve become nicer.
The interior of Cotogna was warm and modern and my eating partner-in-crime Sarah and I were seated by the hostess (who honestly could have a been a little tiny bit nicer, if you asked me) at the bar, which afforded up close and personal views of the pizza making station (to which we were honestly ecstatic). Our waitress didn’t seem like she enjoyed life very much (what’s up Quince/Cotogna with your hiring? Except for the pizza girl who was absolutely darling…) but the food was delicious, seasonal Italian fare and the prices quite reasonable. Plus, there was lovely Heath so who could complain?
Bottom line: Move over Delfina, there’s a new pizza in town.