Mezze maniche ($15.75) a tubular pasta similar to penne also got the baking treatment; the tubes were jumbled with rounds of spicy sausage and slices of wild mushroom in a tomato-cream sauce before being sealed under a broad cap of melted mozzarella. And oreccheti ($15.75) dodged a cliché bullet by being given an ensemble of diced chicken, strips of red and yellow bell pepper, and a heavy shower of chopped arugula instead of the usual sausage and broccoli rabe.
You are not required to eat pasta at Umbria, of course. You can have pizza; the margherita ($11) is quite good, though it is more a cheese pizza, with basil and tomato (the former a sprig, the latter a lone cherry tomato, halved) serving in an advisory capacity. For meat people: beef carpaccio is an appealing port of entry, the shavings of flesh heavily festooned with grated Parmesan and basil chiffonade. Polpette ($6.50 for five) meatballs slightly smaller than golf balls were marvelously moist and mild (because of veal?) in their bright tomato-cheese sauce, and the lamb burger ($13.75) was sensational, a tasty juice bomb served on a focaccia bun and in the company of the crusty roasted potato rounds that have been one of the restaurant's specialties from the beginning.
Last, there is the matter of tiramisù ($6.50). As a rule I can do without, but I found myself in the company of an expert, a man who has spent some time looking into the matter. He poked and prodded at Umbria's offering like a scientist trying to pry a DNA sample from some ancient specimen; finally, he lifted a chunk, watched some goo drip lasciviously to the plate below, and pronounced himself pleased.
"It's not dripping wet," he said. "A good sign."
Elementary, my good sir! *
Dinner: Mon.Sat., 5:3010:30 p.m. Lunch: Mon.Fri., 11:30 a.m.2:30 p.m.
198 Second St., SF
Beer and wine