In lieu of Baueriffic today, Amanda Gold pinch-hits in the Thursday Datebook, taking aim at Hayes Valley's nine-month-old Cafe Altano. On one hand, the casual Italian spot has the location benefits of being near the operahouse and such, plus it's on a high-profile corner. On the other hand, it's going to have to do better if it wants to play with the big boys in the restaurant-stacked Hayes Valley:
The meatballs were dry, but the polenta cakes are particularly comforting and decadent ... It was an example of the hit-and-miss nature of the restaurant ... Altano needs some fine-tuning before it usurps schnitzel in the Hayes Valley routine, but once you figure out your way around the menu, the restaurant is worth checking out as a neighborhood option.Homemade pastas and pizzas are among the unimpressive items but if you play it right, there are some winners on the menu to be had, like the beet salad and osso bucco. In the end though, it seems that Cafe Altano has some growing up to do if it wants to stake its claim on the corner of Hayes and Laguna. The final Gold grade: a solid two stars. [Chron]
Paul Reidinger heads to the Mission to experience the relocated version of Cafe Prague, which is way more hipster than the FiDi original: "The set-up offers, in addition to convenience, a more authentically bohemian setting, or at least one farther removed from soaring glass towers full of bankers counting their taxpayer-funded bonuses. Inside it's homey; the only bohemian touch that seems to be lacking is a pall of blue smoke from cigarettes being nervously puffed by sallow, Kafkaesque young men." [SFBG]
Jonathan Kauffman takes his show to the so-called "Nicaraguan strip" of Mission Street, visiting Oye! Managua, Las Tinajas, and Adelita's Cakes: "Oye! Managua and Las Tinajas, generally considered the best of the bunch, serve food so homey, so hearty, that even your grandmother might find solace in cerdo asado and gallo pinto." [SFW]
THE ELSEWHERE: The Sunday review had three shiny stars for Frances, the PressDem takes an early look at Sebastopol's P30, the EBX is at Berkeley's Flavah Island Cafe, the WSJ files a quick take on SoMa comfort food spot Nova, Bar Bites does The Republic, and Bargain Bites hits up Clement Street's Java Restaurant.