True Story: I dream of homemade pasta daily. It is so much on my brain that I hardly notice it anymore. When my best foodie friend was in town she mentioned it right away asking, “Do you know how many times you have brought up fresh pasta on my visit?” I was in disbelief and shrugged. I had no idea, but fresh pasta, now that sounds delicious. Over the course of her trip we had a series of big meals planned but one night the focus was strictly on drinking and shaking our chonies. This night was the San Francisco version of our Gays & Dolls bar crawl. I was present for the two versions she threw in LA and the West Hollywood version was one of the best nights of my life. My friend, The Minty, has an entire gay posse and with her help I have gained gay boyfriends all my own.
You have no idea what it means to dance until you are on a crowded dance floor surrounded by hot shirtless men and get to go wild to all of your favorite guilty pleasure pop songs. If there was heaven on earth, it would probably be the dance floor of a gay club. This kind of activity requires a full meal in the belly and cocktails consumed pinkies up. On this particular night, we were looking for a restaurant near the Castro where we could fill our tummies with carbs. Minty, who was more aware than I about how much I wanted pasta, suggested we get Italian. A few internet, Yelp, and newspaper searches later we found Poesia, which means poem in Italian. How could two food writers choose a restaurant by any other name? Between the location and the menu we were sold that this would be our restaurant for the night. I called to make a reservation and the man that picked up the phone had a beautiful Italian accent. We walked to the establishment that looks like a house, opened the door, and walked the stairs to the top where the quaint restaurant was before us. We ordered the Tortino Ai Carciofi right away, which was a fried ball of all of my favorite things: artichokes and mozzarella. Anyone that knows me knows that artichokes have my heart and I may have asked for extra bread to continue dipping on.
The other appetizers ordered didn’t reach the ball heights of that artichoke dip but the Insalta Verde with butter lettuce, nectarines, Pecorino Mugellano was a decent summer salad. The mussels weren’t phenomenal but I did find myself dipping the bread into the broth for hours to come. I have now mentioned the bread more than once and that it is because it is homemade in small loaves and it became something that I had zero self-control with.
We were three girls carb loading for a night of drinking and dancing and we were in a restaurant with all homemade pastas. We all stayed on course and ordered pasta dishes. The Minty had the Fileji di Renato with pork ribs, garlic, and tomato sauce. The sauce on this dish was beautifully executed. It is so rare for me to have an interesting tomato sauce and that was the sauce that I am still thinking about. The meat in the dish was secondary to the sauce and the thick handmade pasta.
Thankfully, my second choice of pasta dishes was ordered by our friend at the table. Orecchiette al Forno was a dish that combined some of my favorite ingredients. The delicate small ear shaped pasta was served with artichokes, shitake, provolone and walnuts. It was an interesting combination of ingredients that all worked together.
When it came to entrees, I am happy to report that I believe that my dish was the winner. I ordered the Farfalle Fiorte, which had fresh mozzarella and squash blossoms. The waiter questioned me right after my order asking if I mind that the dish is spicy and fishy. There were red pepper flakes and some anchovy paste. I stuck to my ordering guns, as my second and third choices were already coming to the table. When the dish arrived it was so flavorful and complex. The heat and the fishiness worked together perfectly and I was amazed by all of the squash blossoms I uncovered in the dish. The truth is that homemade pasta, while delicious, isn’t all that interesting. It is simply flour, water, eggs, and salt but what makes pasta delicious is the toppings. My dish was accessorized beautifully, which is funny because Minty told me long ago that the number one way to attract a gay boyfriend was big and bold accessories. My dish worked it and I fell in love.
I am sure people have very low expectations for “authentic” Italian restaurants in California, let alone in the Castro and yet this place totally delivered. Our waiter had a real Italian accent, the bread was made on site: fresh and warm, and the quality of the olive oil was superb. You feel like you are in someone’s house, the place is quaint and Italian black and white movies are projected on the wall. We ordered a dessert that is not worth mentioning because the chocolate, olive oil, and chili pepper were all kinds of off but I would definitely return here for some fantastic Italian food. The men in the location aren’t bad to look at either. The table of boys next to us were as drool-worthy as the food. And when someone at that table mentioned that he could lose 7lbs in a week everyone in the tiny restaurant had ears that perked up. The food and the atmosphere was homey and the carb-loading seemed to do wonders for the night of Lemon Drops and dancing to Enrique on the dance floor ahead of us. I still need to visit all of the Italian restaurants in San Francisco that rhyme with my name: Deflina and Farina, but Poesia set the bar very high and I am thrilled to have this place nearby. If you are looking for an Italian love poem in your mouth, then go to Poesia,
4072 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
Castro: Poesia + Gays and Dolls in SF