SPQR San Francisco: At the chef’s table

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Early diners at SPQR

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Chef Matthew Accarrino at work

Scoring a reservation at modern, Italian-inspired SPQR is somewhat of a battle. Perhaps not as bleak as that of the Romans, but it requires a bit of strategy and planning ahead. Despite my advanced research, I left it to chance. I popped in during the Saturday lunch hour and inquired about that same evening. La mia buona fortuna: I was guaranteed a seat at the chef’s table, at 5:30 no less.

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Sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema

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Sweet carrot and lentil salad

I arrived a few minutes before 5:30. Eager diners were already waiting for the restaurant to unlock its doors. Once the dark burgundy curtain was pushed aside and the door opened, I took my seat at the bar, otherwise known as the “Chef’s Table.” The relaxed restaurant went from fairly quiet to buzzing within twenty minutes. I watched the young cooks before me go from standing idly by to trained agility and expeditiousness. Executive chef Matthew Accarrino, who shared with me his culinary history (a short time in Italy included- certo!), remained outside of the cooktop area. He oversaw plating, added final elements to each dish, and periodically attended to the salumi-maker. Calm, professional, and composed, he was the opposite of Romans as I know them. Chef seemed like the unsuspecting ruler of the gladiators, rather than the chaotic aggressor. I did observe one resemblance: just as the Italians did, but with far smaller portions, he graciously shared amuse-bouches throughout my meal. Chef is a thoughtful, creative cook. The mulberries served alongside his white balsamic sorbet were actually picked from his own tree.

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A special treat for sitting at the chef’s table: a warm, homemade breadstick wrapped in prosciutto

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Summer vegetable “vignarola”

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The proper way to plate a long pasta dish. Che bellissima.

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Artful plating at SPQR

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Primi.

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team effort

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The optimal vantage point: the chef’s table at SPQR.

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White balsamic sorbet with mulberries from the chef’s tree.

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Biscotti? Not the dolce kind. These are mushroom biscotti.

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Chocolate mint custard with chocolate sorbet.

SPQR

1191 Fillmore St, San Francisco 94115

415.771.7779

 

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