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Three-Star AltoVino Rolled Bauer Down a Tuscan Hillside

Also: a review-in-drag from Hamburger Mary’s and all the smoke meat you can handle in the East Bay



At the Chronicle, Michael Bauer was very impressed by the attention to detail at AltoVino, the Nob Hill Italian spot from owner Claudio Villani and chef Nick Kelly. It’s that careful execution that sets AltoVino apart from a neighborhood wine bar, Bauer says, and the former Mason Pacific space has now found “an alternative class of luxury.” Standout dishes include an herb-crusted green brick of Halibut, “perfectly bronzed” roast chicken, and a one-kilo dry-aged porterhouse that arrives at the table “under a glass dome thick with white smoke.” The squid appetizer took the critic on a trip from the literal SF hill he was dining on to “the steep hills that roll down to the ocean in Tuscany,” and Kelly doesn’t just do meatballs, Bauer says, he “celebrates” them with wisps of lemon and braised escarole. With house-made pastas and “carefully crafted” desserts, AltoVino is three stars across the board.

Hamburger Mary’s

For it’s Castro-centric issue, SF Weekly called in guest reviewer and critic-in-drag “EAT-IT Pilaf” to weigh in on the food and the controversy at Hamburger Mary’s. While the restaurant’s long-awaited opening “is great news for people tired of the neighborhood’s empty storefronts,” Pilaf writes, the restaurant itself is just not very good, “serving mushy meat, soggy fries, and painfully weak drinks.” As for the community that Mary’s is meant to celebrate: a drag restaurant is hardly revolutionary in 2018, Pilaf notes, and despite its roots in San Francisco the place “feels like as much of a chain as Applebee’s.” Except at Applebee’s, you might actually get a strong margarita rather than one that “tastes like spiked mixer.” All is not lost among the mish-mash diva decor, however: the fried pickles were “very good” and the back patio “has a lot of potential” for future drag brunches. But, overall, Hamburger Mary’s is a disappointment in a neighborhood with too many vacancies.

Augie’s Montreal Deli

In the East Bay, Janelle Bitker found Canadian pride, poutine, matzo ball soup and Montreal-style smoke meat at Augie’s Montreal Deli. Owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski learned the smoke meat technique from one of Quebec’s greats and perfected his recipe while working as a pop-up out of Beauty’s Bagels. The result is “glorious,” Bitker says, with the texture of corned beef and the “intense” crust of pastrami that needs no accompaniment other than a couple slices of rye bread. The poutine, however, turns out to be even more exciting, with thrice-fried “impressively crispy” red potatoes that stand up to the “viscous” gravy and “certifiably squeaky” cheese curds. Rounding out the menu are the “total comfort” matzo ball soup (adapted from Gopnik-Lewinski’s grandmother’s recipe) and the “secret star” latkes made with rye breadcrumbs and “maximum crispiness.”