Che Fico, a hip Italian taverna meaning “how cool”, is definitely the hotspot with reservations booked weeks in advance or the only availability is after 10pm (past my bedtime for sure). However if you arrive at 5pm, 30 minutes before opening, you’ll be sure to get a spot at the communal table or bar. The food at Che Fico is Italian inspired using Northern Californian ingredients and even has a section dedicated to Roman-Jewish classics such as carciofi alla giudia, supplÌ, beef tongue, and chicken hearts. Chef David Nayfeld is certified to cook Neapolitan pizza by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana but instead is creating his own spin on pizzas by using local ingredients and baking them at a lower temperature which results in a fluffy bubbly crust. Chef Angela Pinkerton, James Beard recipient for outstanding pastry chef for 2011, creates rustic desserts at Che Fico and plans to open a pie focused diner (Theorita) later this year.
Supplì are Roman style arancini, fried rice balls, that are typically stuffed with cheese. Their version had a tomato flavored rice stuffed with cheese and garnished with dill which was unexpected. A warm comforting bite.
Grilled chopped duck liver might sound scary to some but this was quite delicious and seasoned nicely. The sweetness of the onion marmelatta and tanginess from the pickled onion pieces complimented the natural flavors of the liver. The purple daikon added crunch and freshness and the matzo cracker was the perfect vessel to eat the chopped liver with.
I was so excited to try one of their signature dishes but unfortunately this was executed poorly. The Caciocavalo cheese was seared on one side with a nice crust but the cheese became so hard that it was impossible to cut even with a steak knife! The cheese was so difficult to cut and I was expecting warm gooey cheese on top of bread. While the flavors weren’t bad, the dish was technically incorrect.
I enjoyed the flavors of the dish but the octopus itself was a bit tough and chewy for my liking and the chunks of pork belly were too big. The potatoes were tender and tasty though and I liked the addition of green almonds.
The pizzas at Che Fico are made from a sourdough yeast starter making it quintissentially San Franciscan. While I loved the sweet pineapple with fermented chili and red onion, the entire crust was burnt. Every pizza I saw had the same flaw and when the diner next to me addressed the issue, the server said that the burned crust was intentional. I mean c’mon that’s ridiculous. Every table that had ordered a pizza did not finish their crust which seems like an obvious problem so it’s strange to me that the chef hasn’t changed anything.
These beautiful morsels were stuffed with braised lamb and garnished with peas, artichokes, and shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese. No green garlic flavor was really present and the pasta came out lukewarm which was kind of a bummer.
By far the best part of the meal was this superb crostata. The beautiful flaky dough was filled with tart rhubarb and finished with a brown butter crumble and creamy luscious fior di latte gelato. So damn good. I would come back just for this dish.
The chocolate budino was smooth, creamy, and delicious but the gelato had no salted caramel flavor, it honestly could have been anything. Another flaw was the large amount of olive oil drizzled on top which became overpowering.
They offered complimentary fruit to end the meal. These first of the season peaches definitely had a snap to them, quite underripe but still had some sweetness.
While there were some highlights at Che Fico, a handful of the dishes needed some tweaking. The restaurant itself is quite big with a lot of covers to do at once so perhaps that’s why the food isn’t consistent. That’s why I’d rate it at a 7-7.5/10.