(The basket of bread arrives early and is replenished frequently, by the way, as is the accompanying tray of olive oil infused with parsley and anchovies.)
The pasta dishes strike many of the most traditional notes a softball-sized tangle of vermicelli ($16), say, dotted with a handful of petite Tuscan meatballs in a rich, garlicky tomato sauce. Yes, it's spaghetti and meatballs, with a few sophisticated twists.
For local color, how about petrale sole ($26), rubbed with herbs, sautéed, and seated on a mirepoix-like mat of roasted root vegetables? Petrale sole is (despite the Italian name) a local glory, and since it's often breaded, an unbreaded version was a nice treat.
We were slightly disappointed with the brussels sprouts ($9), or cavoletti ("little cabbages"), which, despite being cooked with cubes of pancetta and plenty of olive oil, retained some of their quiet belligerence. Perhaps this was because they'd only been cut in halves, rather than chopped up or shredded. They weren't quite tender enough to be described as tender.
As if in compensation, the chocolate shortbread cookies, or baci Isabella ($8) were divine: a pair of halved globes pasted together with chocolate ganache and served with a glass of milk. The oracle described them, with satisfaction, as being like "cookies that think they're truffles," and a satisfied oracle is a happy oracle.
Dinner: Mon.Thurs., 5:309:30 p.m.;
Fri.Sat., 5:3010 p.m.; Sun., 59 p.m.
737 Diamond, SF
Beer and wine