May 01, 2002


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Let's Tango


THE RECENT SUNSHINY balm speaks of imminent summer, or possibly global warming. Either way, it's good news for the city's ice-cream peddlers and their near relations, gelato peddlers. One of the newest of the latter is Tango Gelato, at 2015 Fillmore near Pine (415-346-3692).

Actually, Tango is and isn't new. The recently opened Fillmore store (in the old Rory's Twisted Scoop space) is the younger sibling of owner Joaquin Pochal's first shop, in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. That retail outlet opened early last year; Tango also sells gelato through various restaurants.

Pochal is a native of Buenos Aires, and Tango pushes the Argentine gelato angle, but when I stopped in recently on a summery afternoon, I found those Argentine notes difficult to detect. The flavors fall very much within the Italian range – tiramisu and gianduja, among other familiar entrants – but of course, this is not a surprise, given the substantial Italian component and European outlook (perhaps the most pronounced in Latin America) of Argentina's population.

The one flavor you'd be unlikely to find in a Roman gelateria is dulce de leche, which is essentially sugar caramelized in milk rather than butter and water. The result is a caramel effect a bit less sweet and candylike than our own, and a splendid gelato.

We tend to equate gelato with ice cream, but gelato relies for its creaminess not on cream but on egg yolks. That sounds horrendous, given the beating eggs have taken in the media over the last decade, but gelato in fact has less fat and fewer calories than ice cream. That might help explain how the Italians can eat so much of it (consumption in the summer months seems to be more or less continuous) while remaining svelte enough to wear those svelte-people clothes of theirs.

As it happens, Pochal himself – the man behind the counter, scooping out the goods – is svelte and quite Italian-looking. But it's Spanish you're likely to hear spilling from his mouth if you happen to be standing in line behind one of the Old World, or New World, customers who prefer to conduct their gelato business in their native tongue. Yes, there are still such people, even in Pacific Heights.

Confidential to those who thought the neighborhood around Pac Bell Park couldn't get any yuppier: You were wrong! The proof is Acme Chophouse (in the old 24 space) with a menu by Traci des Jardins of Jardinière. As the name suggests, the food tends toward the meaty, while the ambience is that of a destination restaurant. Odd destination.

Paul Reidinger paulr@sfbg.com