I expected, more or less, a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, with more than the usual amount of sauce, but what I got was basically an Italian version of pho: a deep bowl filled with an herbed broth in which bobbed a half-dozen or so meatballs (rather beefy, I thought), along with several ravioli discs stuffed with spinach.
The prix-fixe menu includes first and main courses along with dessert, and there are choices within each of those categories. A simple salad of heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese reflected the lusciousness of this year's tomato crop the fruit has been intensely juicy and flavorful even in the early going but while red tomatoes are handsome, so are the yellow, orange, green, and pink ones, and a little color play never hurts any salad.
Main dishes tend toward the straightforward and hearty: grilled veal rib eye with quartered new potatoes, morel mushrooms, and English peas; a swordfish filet striped with artichoke aioli and laid atop braised Swiss chard and spring onions. Desserts, as befits the restaurant's name and location, are largely seasonal, and in berry season you naturally end up with marriages between berries and pastry, as galettes and little pies. But there are other sweet possibilities available, including an orange-soda float ($7.50) "like a Dreamsicle," one of my companions said, except in liquid form and presented in a sundae glass. Creamy, but mighty sweet, as if Orange Crush and not Orangina was used.
The wine list is diverse and offers a fair number of choices by the glass, but these are pricier than the food would lead one to expect, with many costing well into double digits. Still, that's a manageable splurge if you just plan to sit with a friend under the umbrella on the patio, sharing a bowl of spicy peanuts while watching others, many, many others, go about their business.
Dinner: nightly, 510 p.m.
Lunch: Mon.Fri., 11:30 a.m.5 p.m.
Brunch: Sat.Sun., 9 a.m.3 p.m.
One Ferry Building, Embarcadero at Market, SF
Comfortable noise level