This past weekend I went down to San Francisco to see a matinee performance at the Orpheum Theatre. Anyone who has attended matinee performances at the Orpheum knows that it is often slim pickings regarding fine dining within walking distance that doesn’t involve SF hipsters waiting in line for brunch.
Seeking to avoid the lines, mimosas, and pancakes, we used the glorious OpenTable phone app to discover a gem on the Civic Center-SOMA border: Montesacro Pinseria Romana Enoteca.
Everyone loves pizza, but, when restauranteur and Roman Gianluca Legrottaglie (who co-owns the Bay Area’s 54 Mint restaurants) wanted to open his own restaurant, he wanted to do something different. And he did: pinsa.
This isn’t a pizzeria. This is a pinseria. At Montesacro one of the oldest foods of the Western world is served in a casual, cool, cafe environment, just off of Market Street in a small alley. One Yelper described Montesacro as “Rome meets a 1920s jazz bar.”
Pinza, which means “pressed” in Latin, was made by peasants in Ancient Rome. They used ancient grains (spelt, millet, barley and oats), mixed with salt and herbs, to create an oval shaped flatbread. They topped it with whatever was lying around: cheese, sauce, and/or spices. After baking, the pinsa were topped with meats, fresh veggies, olives and/or oil.
The pinsa was such a part of the culture that legendary Roman poet Virgil talked about it in his epic poem, Aeneid, in which he described methods of making it. It doesn’t taste like a pizza. In fact, it is better than pizza.
Legrottaglie’s pinsa is more accessible taste wise than the traditional peasant-recipe. His pinza is made with a blend of non-GMO wheat, soy and rice flour. This creates one of the most delicious and delicate breads I have ever tasted in my life. Slightly sweet yet slightly sour, light, fluffy and absolutely divine. It is so good that I will now compare every single bread I eat from here on out to the pinsa bread. No joke.
Our matinee crew shared two pinsa: a traditional Margherita and the Mandrione (mozzarella, gorgonzola and radicchio). We coupled the pinsa with the Tagliere Misto, a selection of 3 cheeses and 3 salumi of our choise. It was perfect for three people.
The restaurant’s wine list is extensive and reasonably priced. It features wines from throughout the world, minus California, which is a good excuse to venture out of our “wine country comfort zone”. We paired our meal with a refreshing old school 2013 Italian Frascati.
For the final round, we enjoyed tasty espressos and house made Italian wine biscuits which are served with a cup of cheap red wine for dipping.
We enjoyed our experience so much at Montesacro Pinseria Romana Enoteca that we almost forgot about our matinee. Italian speaking locals arrived for lunch, greeting the staff and settling into the cafe. We reminisced about past trips to Italy as we entered into a pinsa induced food coma, before awaking in time to make a 10 minute walk to the Orpheum Theatre. We’re craving pinsa already, and trust me, after you visit Montrasacro, you will too.
Montesacro Pinseria Romana Enoteca is located at 510 Stevenson St., San Francisco. Reservations recommended: 415-795-3040 and montesacrosf.com.