Pizzetta Pere Bianche (Pear Pizza with Prosciutto and Goat Cheese), Pollo Alla Valdostana (Chicken Breast, Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Sage), Pesto Linguini with Pine Nuts
Occupation: Legal Administrator
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Mescolanza Restaurant
Reviewed Mescolanza Restaurant: Friday, December 5, 2008
Mescolanza is a small, intimate, little, neighborhood, mom-and-pop restaurant that serves Italian food. It’s located on Clement Street between 22 and 23 Avenue and is discreetly tucked under a small pink awning. It’s my favorite restaurant in my neighborhood!
Please note, parking on the Clement Street corridor is difficult (almost as bad as North Beach), but what saves you the frustration of driving around endlessly looking for a parking space is the parking lot directly across the street from the restaurant (as Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing!”).
I set our reservation for a Friday evening at 7:30 pm, which is when the restaurant is most crowded. You may have to wait until other diners give up their table for you to get yours. On this night, we ended up waiting an additional 20 minutes outside for the lingering party to stop savoring the food, so that we could have our table! (The restaurant is small and seats only 49 patrons at one time). There is absolutely no room inside the place to wait, which means you are stuck outside. (I am going to suggest to the owners that they place two lovely wooden benches outside underneath each window for their customers to wait comfortably).
Going to this place reminds me of being home in Europe. It’s a small, intimate setting. An artist painted pretty watercolor murals on the walls that add to that homey feeling. It’s a little loud from the various conversations when you first enter the restaurant, but once you get to your table and settle in, you forget the noise and can enjoy a normal conversation.
I ended up taking my two of friends, Vee and Thierry, who work at the BMW dealership in town. What we found funny that night was that everyone in the place this night was older than 50 and Caucasian. You have to understand, Clement Street is the second Chinatown in this city and as such, has more than 100 restaurants of various persuasions nestled between 25 short blocks. In all the years I’ve lived on this street (30 years) I don’t think I have ever been in a restaurant where everyone in the place was of one race and in one age group. San Francisco just isn’t like that normally. Consequently, our little table of three looked like the younger version of the Rainbow Coalition, one Asian, one African-American and me: black, German and Cherokee Indian. We had all flavor taste buds covered!
We started out with some appetizers, the carpaccio and bruschetta. Thierry had never tried carpaccio and wasn’t sure he wanted to try thinly sliced raw beef, no matter how good it was. Given that it’s my favorite dish, and Vee liked it, too, we were able to talk Thierry into it, and he ended up loving it! The plate is presented with extremely thinly sliced beef draped on the plate. There are small mounds of capers, chopped red onions, shaved Parmesan cheese, and what looks like mustard. You then spread the capers, onions and mustard sauce all over the beef and serve your friends. We squeezed one half a lemon all over the dish and off we went — scrumptious!
Then we tried the toasted French bread, which had garlic rubbed on the top and a small amount of olive oil. The toast is then topped with a delicious sprinkling of chopped Roma tomatoes mixed with fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and sea salt. In this day and age of almost tasteless tomatoes (inbreeding is never a good thing), the tomatoes in this dish are ripe, packed full of flavor, and fill your mouth with a burst of flavor.
Next came the hearts of palm salad. Lovely presentation, but just not a large enough portion for the three of us. Lettuce is spread on the plate, along with six stalks of hearts of palm, tender grilled red pepper, and small dollops of a green sauce that I am not sure what it is, but added all together, delish!
I ordered my favorite pizza, the Pear Pizza (Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound too good but it’s divine intervention on a plate.) Vee and Thierry kind of looked at me strange when I ordered it. Vee ordered the osso bucco and Thierry had the veal special.
The pizza comes as a large individual-sized serving that covers the large dinner platter. This is the kind of pizza that is true to Italy. American pizza is totally different. The Pear Pizza has a very thin crust much like a bread crust. The layer of crust is slathered (I soooo love that word when it pertains to food) in a small amount of tomato sauce. Layered on top is a mix of melted mozzarella and goat cheeses, which is then covered by very thin slices of pear and prosciutto (thinly sliced Italian ham). Small pieces of walnuts are sprinkled on top. What a lovely mingling of subtle flavors and textures.
Of course, I HAD to dip my fork into the other entrees (that’s why you take friends with you, they will allow you to do this). Vee’s osso bucco was excellent. The meat was very tender and flavorful in its rich burgundy-like sauce, but honestly, I loved the vegetables on his plate even more than the meat and that’s saying something for a meat eater like me. The vegetables were carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash done just right in that perfect combination of tender and crunchy at the same time. Thierry liked Vee’s dish so much that he dipped his fork into the plate as well.
Thierry ordered the veal dish that was on the weekly special menu. It was a veal chop sautéed in its own juice with a blend of slow-cooked root vegetables surrounding it. It came with silky, creamy mashed potatoes that had a hint of garlic flavor and a serving of the vegetable combination I spoke of earlier. Once again, excellent!
We had to have dessert so we ordered several for tasting purposes. We had the crème caramel, the tiramisu and the chocolate flan with amaretto and crushed amaretti cookies. The tiramisu and crème caramel were as expected, delicious. That chocolate flan was EXCEPTIONAL! Sinfully, silky smooth texture on a bed of crushed cookies with the hint of amaretto flavors. While we ate all the desserts, the chocolate flan won hands down.
Occupation: Travel Writer
Favorite Restaurant: Alexander’s Steakhouse
Reviewed Mescolanza Restaurant: Saturday, November 22, 2008
Having recently returned from Thailand, my taste buds were already primped, primed, and challenged with a cavalcade of spices and flavors I don’t usually experience in the United States. Mescolanza was the first place my husband and I went to upon touchdown on American soil, and we were eager to sample Italian fare.
Mescolanza is quaint and small, a place that’s deep, not wide, with just about 15 tables. Well lit, with contemporary soft pillar murals on the wall to remind you of Italy, it is not overdone or fussy. White tablecloths, roses in small vases, and a large floral treatment in the entry created a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere. It would have been nice to get the window table, the most romantic one in the place. Oh, well, next time!
There were four of us in our group, and we were there to celebrate our friend Raymond’s birthday. We very fortunate to get parking right in front of the restaurant, which is located on busy Clement Street. With no parking lots nearby, it could be dicey when it comes to parking the car.
But hey, you do what you have to do, and this place is definitely worth the drive and parking frenzy.
With reservation on a Saturday at 7 p.m., the restaurant was not busy, and about half full. I was surprised, because it is located on a busy street with great visibility. I was surprised by the great prices that ranged from $12.95 to $17.50.
I have so much to say that’s positive about this place and only a few not-so-great thoughts. I ordered the $13.50 spinach pasta with chicken, shitake mushrooms, and tomato sauce as my main dish. It was tasty, but this dish didn’t make me sing. I felt the ingredients were great, but somehow it did not burst with flavor. If they added some more garlic or herbs to the dish, it would have popped. But here’s what really popped: the carpaccio ($9.25) with thin-sliced raw beef, capers, red onions, mustard paste, and shaved Parmesan cheese was great. It was an amazing combination of flavors, and even my teenage son, Aaron, enjoyed it. The four of us loved it, and the appetizer was gone within minutes. Another appetizer, the antipasto Mescolanza at $9.75, was so delicious with salami, olives, prosciutto, a nice artichoke in the middle with a great sauce, and cheese slices. Again, it was a homerun.
Others in my party ordered the veal piccata ($17.50), which was a skimpy portion; the angel hair pasta with tomato sauce and garlic and basil ($12.95), which was light and flavorful; and the pesto tagliarini pasta with pine nuts and basil ($12.95). Of all the dishes, the pesto pasta was hands-down delicioso! The basil and pine nuts were balanced well with the fresh flavors — simply dazzling.
Now dessert here is where I wanted to do cartwheels. We had two desserts: the tiramisu and the three-layer chocolate mousse. Both desserts were equally astounding. The tiramisu was anything but generic. It had a creamy texture with delicious cake within — not too sweet and not too strong with the alcohol. The chocolate mousse with a white chocolate layer, a mocha layer, and a dark chocolate layer had a distinct taste and we had to each make sure we would leave enough for the other person to eat. I could have easily eaten both desserts on my own. They were that good.
Our service was fine, and food came out quickly and came out nice and hot. We didn’t feel rushed to leave, and the waitstaff was up to snuff on ingredients and recommendations that were useful. The people here were of all ages — families with small children, older couples, and groups of friends.
BOTTOM LINE: Yes, I would return, and yes, I loved the food, even though my pasta was a tad on the bland side. However, the leftovers tasted even better the next day! Do note that you may have some difficulty parking, but be persistent. This upscale eatery is worth the parking challenge, mostly good for portions, and extremely reasonable in cost. I thought it had the ambiance of a restaurant with prices twice that amount. Our hostess was very kind and friendly, and the dishes came out in timely manner. I also want to add that lighting was perfect — not too dim and not too bright, and the noise level was low so that we could talk without any echoes or clamoring sounds. A great neighborhood place to bring friends and family and have conversation over delicious fare you can brag about!
Occupation: Sales Executive
Location: San Mateo
Favorite Restaurant: Basque Cultural Center
Reviewed Mescolanza Restaurant: Friday, December 5, 2008
While I am no expert on Italian restaurants in the Richmond, I would say Mescolanza does a terrific job at fulfilling one’s craving for solid, well-known, Italian dishes that are executed well, are home made, and taste fresh. Combine that with attentive service in a cozy setting and you’ve got a nice little restaurant.
Parking in the Richmond — specifically at 20-25th Avenue near Geary/Clement — is no easy task on a Friday night, so a word to the wise: get there in plenty of time to find a space. That’s, of course, no fault of Mescolanza’s. The restaurant was nice and full. Making a reservation for a Friday night was a smart choice.
We were promptly greeted by the host/waiter who was extremely welcoming. “Table for two?” he asked. We responded by saying, “Yes, and we have a reservation” and he pointed at the only available table left and said, “This must be yours!” We sat right inside the window, allowing us to have a view of the passers-by. Thankfully it was also nice and warm compared to our surroundings. We brought our own wine, a red blend from Tuscany called “Le Volte,” which is made by Tenuta Ornellaia, which also makes a well-known, highly-regarded eponymous wine. The waiter in his Italian accent said, “Ah, Ornellaia! I know this wine!” He opened it for us and gave us fairly small wine glasses, which I figured is more or less standard, but it would be nice to have had something larger.
There’s something to be said for the simplicity of the ambiance and decor. The parchment paper-colored wallpaper with archways/columns drawn to create the illusion of depth was a nice touch. In a place that isn’t very large, perhaps this was intentional, to create a sense of size.
Anyway, on to the food. With so many great looking choices from pizza to pasta to meat/poultry entrees and having heard great things about some dishes, we figured, “Why not?” and split a pizza and pasta as first courses, and then had an entree and another pasta for the main courses. We started with the Pizzetta Melanzane: eggplant, mozzarella, tomato and pesto sauce. This pizza was nearly flawless. Thin, but not too crunchy, like a cracker with topping. The grilled eggplant was terrific, cut into strips and placed generously around the pizza. The pesto and tomato sauces went great together, and being a fan of both sauces, my girlfriend and I saw this as a no-brainer. It was some of the best thin crust pizza I’ve had.
The other first course dish was the sweet potato gnocchi. It came out piping hot and it was quickly obvious that they make their own gnocchi here, as it’s nice to see that every dumpling didn’t look the same. Quality-wise, I was very pleased, but flavor wise, I thought the sweet potato qualities should have been more pronounced. Instead it was very subtle and perhaps drowned by the cream sauce. Perhaps the spinach gnocchi would have been a better option.
I was extremely happy with the service — the timing of the dishes was perfectly distanced, water glasses were filled, and our waiter’s personality would make any restaurant cheer. On to the main items. The Pasta Fresca was, I thought, a little basic and not that exciting, perhaps our fault for ordering a simple sounding dish. The noodles were spinach fettuccine and we felt the spinach flavors were overly dominant. The fresh tomatoes were not too special, and the garlic, perhaps my favorite part of the dish, was unfortunately sparse. The goat cheese added an element of creaminess, but I did not enjoy the sharpness of the flavor and didn’t feel it complimented the noodles very well. I think those noodles would have worked well in another dish. Quality wise, again, great ingredients, but I didn’t think the dish came together well.
The Chicken alla Valdostana was a whole different ballgame. I’d never had this dish before, but it seemed like a cross between chicken marsala and saltimbocca – and it was terrific. Who, honestly, wouldn’t enjoy a nice thin piece of chicken in a sweet white wine sauce, whose flavor balanced by the saltiness of the prosciutto and mozzarella cheese, which also contributed a nice creamy texture? Well, I enjoyed it. This was excellent, and I would encourage anyone to try it. It was tough to share, but I did. I was happy with how our wine went with the food as well, and despite the small glasses, it opened up nicely.
Last stop was dessert. We went for the chocolate flan with amaretto. Flan, though a Mexican dish (so I thought), was co-opted nicely by the Italians. It was very enjoyable, smooth and creamy going down. The amaretto cookie bottom layer was tasty and prevented the flan from losing its shape and dissolving into an amorphous pudding. It was perfect to share.
All in all: solid, well executed food in a nice, cozy space. Two dishes I thought were done real well, and two very average. Solid food, but it didn’t knock the socks off. If I were in the west part of San Francisco and was in the mood for Italian I’m sure I’d head straight here. As a Peninsula-dweller, with so many other places to try, I think I’d go somewhere else first.
If you’re an SF resident and want some Italian cuisine with many, well-known dishes, executed well with friendly, welcoming service and pine for a quieter environment than crowded, touristy North Beach, then this is your spot. Good Italian food exists outside of North Beach. This is a good example.