Pizza in California is a big deal. Judging from the number of high-end pizzeriae that pop up here and there all over the state, one can say that this is a part of the world more or less obsessed with pizza. At Cotogna in San Francisco Michael Tusk of Quince has created a place that has quickly become immensely popular.
The success of Cotogna is something that has traveled quite a bit. From Andy Hayler to Bruce Palling, people have come here and more or less agreed on a number of things. First of all, Cotogna is a place that just feels good to be in, to which you can add simple and honest Italian-inspired food and some respectable produce.
QLI is not going to disagree, as this is genuinely what makes Cotogna so enjoyable. The first thing you notice when you enter the lofty and beautiful dining room is the warmth of the service brigade. Here you have people who seem to appreciate it when you compliment the dishes, and expect an answer when they ask how something was. That is not often the case, and makes eating here a much more interesting and rewarding experience.
The other two points that seem to be a recurrent theme, when one reads about Cotogna are equally easy to see. The food is of course inspired by Italy. Michael Tusk, who’s fine dining restaurant is just down the road, serves Italian food there, and this is the more homely, more down-to-earth version. You have loads of pasta dishes, pizzae, simply grilled meats or fish and other straightforward dishes.
Despite the simplicity of the menu, the dishes are far from boring. Take a selection of heirloom tomatoes with raw tuna. This dish is simple, daringly simple even, as it only features a selection of tomatoes and some marinated tuna. What makes it work is the quality of the tomatoes, which just burst with flavour. Sweet and intensely juicy, these are far away from the tomatoes most of the world eats all year round. Paired with the tuna, you have a dish that is full of sunshine, and makes you look forward to the rest.
The same goes for the pizzae of course. Better than those at Oenotri for instance, the dough is more akin to that in better Italian places. It is more fluffy, with a nicely charred cornicione. The toppings are of equally good quality than the products you have in the rest of the dishes, which means that these are pizzae that are some of the best in town. That the kitchen is also good with grilled meat is best displayed by a pork chop that is presented in its most bare manner. The meat is just succulent, juicy, tender with bags of flavour. It’s the kind of thing that disappears before you notice it, which is about as good a cimpliment as one can give.
With Cotogna Michael Tusk has not only created a worthy sister to his main restaurant Quince, but also managed to set up a restaurant that is devoid of unnecessary chichi or pretense and simply serves incredibly tasty cuisine of the sun.