a few weekends ago, on a sunday evening, my consort (i just love that word!) and i had just finished watching the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy at the four star on clement street. not on the large screen, mind you, but the small one, which makes me feel like i'm watching a friend's vacation slides projected in the "family den" of a cookie cutter, pre-fabricated house buried deep in the bowels of a newly constructed bedroom community. which really gets my goat. the screen, not the housing. heck, after living crammed into overpriced and undersized san francisco apartments with zero amenities, those tract homes don't look all that bad. anyway, back to my other rant. if i am watching a movie on a screen that 75% smaller than the main screen, in a room that is 75% smaller, why, oh in god's name why, am i paying exactly the same admission price as those fools getting all the big screen action? if the ticket were discounted even just a little, it would not make me quite so steaming mad. now don't get me wrong - this is no beef against the four star, which i love, or the "little" roxie, which i also love, but it's the principle of the thing, y'know?
anyhow, this is how i ended up dining at mescolanza, a little italian joint basically across the street from the four star. i know, i know, i could have gone to pizzete 211 just a block down, but i didn't feel like pizza.
so back to clement street. this little strip is interesting and jam packed with dining options. there appeared to be a several promising looking places: thai, indian, a meat/organic deli place (ak subs, owned by the same people who own the south of market one), a vietnamese banh mi deli, at least one japanese place, and others i'm sure i overlooked. so as my beady little black eyes peered at the window-side dining customers in these venues, undoubtedly frightening them into an early bout of indigestion, the place that appeared to have the largest clientele and the more authentic (oh, i know, bad, bad un-p.c. me) looking clientele was this mescolanza place. so in we went.
and on a sunday evening the place was almost full. having drunk a flask of booze and a eaten a bag of popcorn (all in the spirit of the free-wheelin', free-associatin', steam-of-consciousness spouting movie selection of the evening, i assure you) we weren't so very hungry and so skipped over the appetizers and hit a few pasta dishes. my dining companion ordered the evening's special of fresh spinach lingune in a clam sauce and i, sucker that i am for gnocchi, selected the spinach gnocchi in a light tomato cream sauce.
now let me tell you that the first time i had gnocchi was in italy. in rome. in a little outdoor trattoria not too far from the train station. and it was beautiful. it melted in my mouth like a piece of chocolate. like a piece of that hazelnut chocolate i used to love as a kid, i think it was called ice cubes, or some such thing. since then i've tried, how i've tried to find that gnocchi of my young, virginal dreams. and mescolanza came close. the closest yet.
but first the bad. the dining room is basically a box with poor acoustics. it is not a warm place, despite the murals on the walls. some reviewers on citysearch say it's "cozy" and maybe it is if you don't end up plopped on a center table. where we were seated, in the eye of the hurricane, it felt cozy like someone's garage. but maybe i'm just sensitive to that, having lived in mexico where, more likely than not, you are dining in someone's garage. one of the specials of the night, the spinach linguine with clams ( about $14.00) was way too salty. the pasta itself was excellent, cooked slightly al dente with a good strong spinach flavor. the menu claims their pastas are house-made and i believe them. the clams were another high point as they were very fresh.
and the good. well, here it is:
oh, i know it doesn't look good, but looks can be and often are deceiving. it was divine. the spinach gnocchi (about $11.00) just melted in my mouth. an excellent choice for your toothless dining pal with the beady black eyes. the light tomato cream sauce looked brutish but tasted subtle and delicious. and the best part was that it was gigantic. it was the best gnocchi i've tasted since that late afternoon in rome. really.
and they had some rockin' looking authentic italian looking pizzas on the menu (thin crust with some blistering, minimal toppings) for around ten bucks a piece.
the clam eater wasn't impressed with his dish but loved mine (grrrr....back off bivalve eater!) and he doesn't even like gnocchi. the next time i will sample the pizette as an appetizer followed by my creamy dreamy pillows of roman fantasy, the almightly gnocchi. for more reviews go here citysearch reviewers give this place a whopping 9.8, which i think is crazy-talk. based on our two dishes i'd give it more like a 9, whatever that means.
2221 clement street
san francisco, ca
415 668 2221