Review: A Mano.

I finally visited one of summer’s hot openings and its still poppin’.

Months after opening, A Mano, in Hayes Valley, is still the hotspot probably since it’s the only Italian restaurant within the neighborhood. A Mano translates to “by hand” in Italian meaning that all the food is made by hand especially their homemade pastas. Obviously I love Italian food especially after living in Florence for four years where I ate pasta almost everyday. However, finding authentic rustic pasta is hard to come by (besides Belotti Ristorante e Bottega in Oakland) since everything seems to have a Californian twist. Even though A Mano is an extremely popular restaurant, my expectations weren’t too high. We walked in around 5:30pm on a Sunday (they don’t take reservations) and the entire restaurant was almost fully packed. The warm lively atmosphere was definitely inviting, a great restaurant for large groups of friends or family. The menu is straightforward with a few antipasti, pizza, pasta, and one nightly special.

Monterey Squid with Ceci Beans, Castelvetrano Olives, and Romanesco (8/10).

Succulent sautéed pieces of Monterey squid were sitting on a vibrant romanesco sauce with chickpeas. I loved the additional of chopped castelvetrano olives that gave nice salty brininess to the dish.

Pizza with Walla Walla Onions, Potato, Savoy Cabbage, Taleggio Cheese, and Salsiccia (7/10).

I loved all the components on the actual pizza (sweet onions, creamy potato slices, pungent Taleggio cheese) but it was overcooked to my liking. The crust was too crunchy on the bottom and almost felt like a crispy cracker rather than a pillowy doughy pizza.

Agnolotti dal Plin with Roast Chicken and Pork, and Chard (8.5/10).

Hands down this was the best dish of the meal. These pillowy agnolotti were heavenly bites stuffed with a rich intense roast chicken and pork filling that was so comforting. The simple butter sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese was a perfect accompaniment that coated every agnolotti morsel. Definitely order this.

Chestnut Campanelle with Brussels Sprouts, Celery Root, Walnuts (7.5/10).

Without a doubt this pasta dish embodied all the flavors of autumn, from the chestnut flavored campanelle pasta to the fall vegetables of celery root and brussels sprouts. Delicious but didn’t compete with the agnolotti.

Nutella Sundae (7.5/10).

A simple sundae with chocolate and vanilla ice cream with Nutella underneath. I loved the chocolate sauce poured table side. I used the extra for the panna cotta as well.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberries (7/10).

While the flavor of the panna cotta was delicious, a nice balance of tanginess and sweetness, the texture was too soft and runny.

I’m glad I finally tried A Mano but I’m not sure I would return anytime soon. The majority of the dishes were good but nothing was spectacular or mind blowing. Therefore my rating is a 7-7.5/10.

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