Straight from the Source

The Phoenix Pastificio is located at 1786 Shattuck Ave. Call (510) 883-0783 for more information.

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The Phoenix Pastificio is a bastion of gourmet foodstuffs. It makes pasta for 275 bay area restaurants - among them Greens in Fort Mason, Boulevard in San Francisco and Baywolf and Rivoli in the East Bay - and was recently included in the San Francisco Chronicle's "Fab Food for the Frugal" list. At The Phoenix, you can buy fresh pasta to prepare at home and baked goods to take away. Or, you can have an incredible pasta lunch at a very reasonable price.

Phoenix Next Door, the restaurant portion of The Phoenix Pastificio, has a constantly rotating pasta menu that averages five daily specials.

For starters, you'll be served kalamata olive wheat batard - one of the best breads I've ever had as a prelude to a restaurant meal. The crust is crispy and the center contains a generous amount of olives.

As for the entrees, some are contingent on what is in season. One such dish during my visit was the garlic-parsley fettuccine "al Palazzino" ($9). The pasta was lightly coated with butter sauce, and the garlic and parsley flavor of the pasta asserted itself nicely. It also included both fresh tomatoes and in-house slow-roasted tomatoes; tender, flavorful kale; and bacon and chickpeas that added an interesting texture to the overall dish.

Another addition to this fabulous dining experience was a pasta puttanesca featuring succulent vegetables - including caramelized bell peppers, fennel, onions, eggplant, pine nuts and sultana raisins on a slightly sweet orange-fennel pasta ($8).

The Phoenix's house standards are not always on the menu but are almost always available. The pasta itself -especially the porcini mushroom pasta, Meyer lemon pasta and the garlic parsley pasta - is flavorful and full-bodied. The house salad, comprised of organic mixed greens with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and balsamic vinegarette($4), is very fresh.

The best house standard is the smoked salmon ravioli with herb cream sauce ($7). The smoked salmon is prevalent, fresh and delicious. The herb cream sauce with watercress and mint allows the flavor of the smoked salmon ravioli to take center stage. Another house standard is the goat cheese ravioli with kalamata-olive pesto ($7). The pesto is quite rich, but the dish is savory nevertheless.

The dishes at The Phoenix Pastificio range from very traditional Italian "soul food" to creative combinations made by the chefs, who keep cardinal California cuisine requirements - local, fresh, native and in-season ingredients - in mind.

At the end of the meal, be sure to try one of the desserts. The delicious Anzac is a crispy, nutty-flavored Australian/New Zealand army cookie with chopped pecans, coconut, oats, honey and molasses.

"Best-ever" macaroons are made of almond paste and Meyer lemons and are a nice departure from standard coconut macaroons. They have a nice, crunchy crust and a moist center. Don't expect the standard lemon bitterness in them - Meyer lemons are sweeter and less tart than your standard lemon.

Phoenix Next Door shares pasta-making work space with The Phoenix Pastificio; therefore chef and pasta-making areas are exposed to the restaurant's patrons. The scene is a little busy and chaotic, but in a very comfortable, warm and friendly way.

Once you are seated, drink in the very pleasant atmosphere. One wall is covered by a mural of blue skies and grassy knolls. High ceilings, lots of natural light and a wide variety of music including soul and Latin result in a rich, Northern Californian atmosphere.

The Phoenix's team of culinary heavyweights obviously take a great deal of pride in excellent food and culinary creativity - Phoenix founder Eric Sartenaer also founded Semifreddi's bakery and worked at the Cheeseboard for eight years. Chefs Steven Lucas, Nancy Flynn and Leslie Perelman have diverse and extensive cooking and baking experience - notable establishments among their resumes include Zuni Café in San Francisco, Rick and Ann's and Ristorante Ecco.

Unfortunately, Phoenix Next Door is only open for lunch 11:30-2:30pm. But Sartenaer plans to open the restaurant for dinner soon.


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