Meet Americano, a modern Italian restaurant tucked away on the ground floor of the ever so fun San Francisco hotel Hotel Vitale along the infamous Embarcadero. It has more of a new California cuisine ambiance to it than Italian which is partially due to its trendy lounge bar, separated from the restaurant only by a luxurious-feeling drape…a little drama in the middle of modern chic. Hotel Vitale is Joie de Vivre property and because the restaurant is on the ground floor with windows facing the waterfront, you have spectacular views of the Bay Bridge if you go early enough — I’d recommend having an early dinner since it’s a stone’s throw from the Financial District and a four minute walk from the Ferry Building, and then hanging out in the funky lounge area for an after dinner drink.
If the weather is great and it’s a sunny day, I’d suggest sitting on Americano’s outdoor patio. While our photos came out a bit grainy due to glare and we had to resort to more shots taken on our iPhones than my Canon 7D, I can assure you that the taste of each of these exquisite dishes far surpassed our expectations not to mention our photography on that unlucky evening. A popular dish among locals is the Artichoke and Brussels Sprouts, which is only flash fried for 45 seconds to a minute and served with a lemon aioli. YUM! It was our favorite starter and we’re not surprised it is such a hit with locals.
Executive Chef Josua Perez insisted we try the ever so delicious Grilled Octopus (below), which he serves with Romesco, potatoes, frisee and an olive tapenade. Apparently he’s a native of San Francisco, which seems to be a growing rarity among the people, chefs included, I’ve been meeting lately. Turns out he spent a stint at one of old favorite haunts Zuni Café under the tutelage of Chef Judy Rodgers, a upscale restaurant along Market where I used to hang my hat more frequently when I first lived in the Bay Area — oysters and chardonnay was my go to every single time…
While they have several pizza options to choose from as well as a traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonara with bacons, peas and egg I would have loved to try, I went for the Heritage Pork and Beef Meatballs al Forno (below) instead due to my commitment to lower carb dishes, which I have to admit, has added to my energy levels on a day-to-day basis. That said, there’s nothing wrong with splurging from time-to-time and Anthony and I are huge fans of homemade pasta, my favorite being a simple angel hair with garlic or freshly made linguini topped with boar ragu. Yum! If you want such a rich delight at Americano, I’d go for their Garganelli with baby artichoke, feta, mint and pinenuts or their Mafalde, with pork sugo, hazelnuts, baby kale and Pecorino Sardo. DANG!! Oh so delish!
While no doubt the meatball appetizer had us at hello, I would have loved to see some of their dishes presented in lighter colored dishes. A personal choice perhaps, but seeing a pasta dish in a slightly larger and lighter bowl where the reds and greens could really pop visually would have been my preference vis a vis a small brown bowl where its magic got a little lost. Absolutely delicious nevertheless – I could have had seconds, although we had plenty more coming.
If you’re laying low on carbs, then fish or meat is the obvious choice, preferably one without a huge side of potatoes, rice or couscous. For fish lovers, they offer a Mt. Lassen Trout with creme fraiche, English peas (one of my faves), Dill, potato confit and sunflower seed pesto (oh so yum) and a Miso Glazed Black Cod with shrimp dumplings, spring vegetables, and roasted Maitake mushrooms.
A tough call but we were much more excited by their red wines than their whites, which included a lovely array of Italian whites and options mostly from northern California, although there was a 2012 Zerran from Spain and a New Zealand 2013 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough on offer. Of course, I am one of those people who DO love those buttery Chardonnays, so would have been overjoyed with a light fish dish coupled with a Jordan, Kistler (one of my favorites) or Far Niente chard.
That said, their Short Ribs were calling to us and so we turned to red discoveries and while they had the Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella which would have been a great Italian choice, we went with a new world Cab from yes…Napa. While I often try to explore new varietals and regions, it’s hard to go wrong with a Silver Oak Cab when you have Ribs and a Hanger Steak on order as your mains. Their hanger steak is served in a Sorrel Panade with a simple watercress topping and Beef Jus. While your mouth is watering, how about the thought of caramelized carrots and cipollini and fresh horseradish Gremolata as an accompaniment to the short ribs? I’m not even a horseradish fan and yet, we both put a serious dent in the dish despite its size.
What’s nice about their menu is the mashup of classic steak and fish dishes coupled with Italian fare, from pizzas to pastas. Because of the heavier entrees, I loved their bite menu to start, a great choice if you’re there with a group. I wished I had tried their cashews with chili and garlic, their roasted almonds with olive oil and Thyme (I’m a huge fan of this herb) or their Coriander French Fries. The latter isn’t really a fit for a low carb diet, but I could have nibbled on one if Anthony had taken the plunge. After all, where else can you find Cordiander French Fries on a menu?
For the sweet tooth addicts among you, you can’t go wrong with their Yuzu and White Chocolate Cremeux, an unusual blend of coconut meringue and grapefruit — yup, you heard me right – GRAPEFRUIT! Let’s just say it “popped.” and I wanted the recipe and rarely dive into desserts. Because we love Panna Cotta and it’s not always on the menu, we wanted to put their Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta to the test, which he makes with Rhubarb Gelee, strawberries and pistachio shortbread. How’s that for a combo? Those after something a little lighter, the Gelato and Sorbet del Giomo is a great choice or house-made frozen yogurt, which you rarely see on a menu. There’s also a lovely selection of Artisanal cheeses for fellow low carb fans, which they serve with roasted almonds and honey.
Below, the main dining room during the day….
Anthony Compagnone is a bilingual speech and language therapist by day and has been helping kids and adults with their speech and language needs for over 20 years in New York.
He is also a keen martial artist and has practiced a number of disciplines from kempo to kung fu and everything in between.
Also a champion of his two incredible kids, yoga, hiking and traveling, he contributes to We Blog the World about family travel, hotel and product reviews and of course culture, where his language skills are a huge asset. He speaks 5 languages but is most proficient in English, Spanish and French.