Certain things never go out of style, like Levi's jeans, LBDs, pearls, Cary Grant and classic tuxedos. Preferably Cary Grant in a classic tuxedo. Add to that list Sociale, which opened in San Francisco in 2001, has remained a gem of an Italian restaurant, and if they keep up the good work, it'll be a classic for many years to come.
Last night, after seeing the wonderful movie Waitress at the Bridge (a refreshing respite from the multiplexes), Rebecca, Jill and I headed a few short blocks over to Sociale on Sacramento between Spruce and Locust in Presidio Heights. I'd been there once several years ago, and had my fingers crossed that it would still be as good now (especially after J & R didn't love our trip to Bambuddha Lounge on my recommendation). Luckily, Sociale was a hit!
The first thing you notice about the place is the setting. After walking through a charming garden with outdoor seating, you arrive in the beautifully appointed dining room. Aside from the food, the one thing I remembered most about the restaurant were the colorful striped silk banquettes, and they're still there.
At 9:15, every seat in the house was filled and the entire room was happily enjoying the food and each other's company. We had to wait a bit at the communal table in front, but before long we were seated and enjoying baguette slices with creamy, salty butter.
For our first courses, Rebecca had the Gazpacho, which she declared good and spicy. Jill and I both had the Watermelon and Burrata Salad. Burrata is an Italian cheese, similar to whole milk mozzarella, but slightly more firm and salty. The salad was akin to a Caprese, with extra virgin olive oil and basil, but with fragrant, sweet, juicy watermelon instead of tomatoes. At first, the flavor/texture combo was a bit strange, but as I slowly savored the dish I decided it was the perfect summer starter.
On to the main courses. Rebecca and I had one of the restaurant's signature dishes, the Pappardelle with Braised Duck. The pappardelle, like all of Sociale's pastas, was house-made; the duck was perfectly braised, and the rich, flavorful sauce included porcini mushrooms and peas. Jill had the Brick Chicken, which was a nice dish but, per Jill, could have done without the pesto sauce.
What we could not do without were the desserts, also all made on the premises. Sociale's version of "Doughnuts and Coffee" was two doughnuts, one sugar-dusted, one topped with chocolate sauce, accompanied by an espresso milkshake. If Krispy Kremes are the gold standard of donuts, these babies are pure platinum. One bite of the Chocolate Truffle Cake (rich milk chocolate cake with dark and white chocolate ganache, and vanilla gelato on the side) is enough to make you swoon -- and then want to sprint straight to the Stairmaster.
Fortunately, Shar the Jordanian taskmaster was teaching my spinning class this morning. He told us, "If you're sensitive, or emotionally fragile, this is not the class for you." After an hour with Shar, that truffle cake was most definitely banished from my hips.
3665 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94118