Elmira Rosticceria Brings Delicious but Odd Italian to the Civic Center

Categories: Opening

Pete Kane
With Square on the register, succulents on the tables, and galvanized tin sconces, Elmira Rosticceria looks very, very 2013. The ceiling fixtures are Edison-bulbs-within-Mason-jars, which is like a trend that ate itself. The coffee is by Bicycle Coffee, which very likely gets delivered via fixie. Feels almost like anywhere new in San Francisco, except that there is no sign. (In fact, from the outside, Elmira looks like an abandoned storefront, sad graffiti included.)

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Inside, starker surprises await. The Lampredotto (slow-cooked tripe in tomato soup on a torpedo roll) was possibly the strangest sandwich I've ever eaten. It may have actually been lowered whole into the soup, because the bottom bun was soaked through. And the fatty pieces of tripe slid out intact as I tried to bite them, leaving me with meat hanging from my mouth. However curiously executed, it was insanely good -- possibly the most flavorful sandwich I've had this year. I would gladly eat it again (with a fork and knife).

A side of spring onions -- smallish as a $2.50 accompaniment to the $7.50 sandwich -- was equally baffling. Good thing I'm not vegan, because they had been cooked under a porchetta rotisserie, to absorb juices and bits of meat as they fell. Like the sandwich, it was exceptionally delicious, but the kitchen should maybe mark that one with an asterisk. Still, not one but two people came out and espoused genuine interest in how my meal was going.

For the less adventurous, try a crispy pork salad, whole or half rotisserie chicken and daily specials such as stuffed bronzino (with leek, fennel, spring vegetables and gnocchi). Breakfast spans muffins, steel-cut oatmeal and various scrambles and frittatas. It's exactly the sprucing-up McAllister Street needs, and Elmira should be big with the UC Hastings crowd.

If you gravitate toward the unusual -- or maybe peasant fare at its most baroque -- this could be one of those places where you eat through the entire menu, just for curiosity's sake, as I will.

Elmira Rosticceria, 154 McAllister St., (415) 551-7332.

Follow Pete at @wannacyber

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