“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” – Julia Child
There is no single restaurant that is characterized more definitively by the above words for me than brunch with my friends and family at Cotogna. Adulation, in any form, is not my form. However, a low-key homage to a place and a team of particularly talented chefs and cooks is something I can get behind. So, this is a love note to Chef Michael Tusk and to my beloved: the people I have shared in some of “life’s primal and most innocent delights” and to Cotogna itself.
Having a strong predilection for exposed brick, open kitchens, and wood burning ovens, it took no more than 4.2 seconds for me to process that Cotogna was far from the average California restaurant doling out Italian fare.
Two formidable (and painfully gorgeous) industrial size ovens welcome you as you walk in. Ovens I would lie down in traffic just to use once. There is an open, almost gregarious, composition to the dining room. There is ample but not too ample sunlight, and elements of natural wood thoughtfully injected throughout.
… feeling as if you are in a trattoria straight from the set of a Nancy Meyers meets Francis Ford Coppola movie. What could possibly be better than that?
Actually, there is a lot of wood used throughout Cotogna. There are oak logs you can easily view (and smell! Oh, the smell…) burning in the oven, the walnut beams and ceiling overhead, the uniquely Californian design of the room with Redwood dining tables, seating, and cocktail bar.
All these elements welcome, rather, seduce you into taking refuge at this buzzy oasis in Jackson Square. One where “refuge” is defined as soaking in the pizza from the oven, drinking in the afternoon sunlight, and generally feeling as if you’re in a trattoria straight from the set of a Nancy Meyers meets Francis Ford Coppola movie. What could possibly be better than that? Niente.
Outside of Italy, Chef Tusk and Cotogna are two of the reasons I understand, and therefore appreciate, what excellent pasta should taste like. Toothsome, al dente, subtle, layered… Intricacies of pasta that are either wholly understood or missed completely. It’s like the Electoral College: you either get it or you don’t. (For the record, understanding the Electoral College is far less of an undertaking.)
Risking entering into complete adulation, I’ll end with this. There is no better place in San Francisco to bring together your beloved to brunch than Cotogna.
The Script: What to Order
Apertivo: Aperol Fizz or Bloody Mary with Aceto Balsamico & Espelette Pepper
Antipasti: Gypsy Broccoli, Bottarga & Neonata (pictured above), Sformato of Sunchoke & Grana Padano, and Polpo in Umido
Pizza: Pistachio Pesto, Ricotta & Arugula, and Speck, Fuyu Apple & Teleme
Primi: Strozzapreti Cacio e Pepe (pictured above), Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Agnolotti del Plin con Sugo d’Arrosto, and Gnocchi con Pesto di Cavolo Nero
Secondi: Black Sea Bass (and additional and you’re not carbocide-ing correctly)
Dolci: Dark Chocolate Budino with Nocino Liqueur, Caramel Gelato, and Lime Meringue Tart with Huckleberries
490 Pacific Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94133
*smaller images c/o Cotogna