TIME FOR A DIFFERENT NICOISE SALADE — I’m not sure the academicians of “authentic” French cuisine would admit it to their very proper pantry. But if you like leeks and currants and you like those undoubted Nicoise components potato, tuna and garlic, why not combine them in a new and refreshing salad. Things to do: steam sliced leeks, boil sliced potatoes, mince scallion or shallot, open tin of tuna chunks in oil, locate supply of currants, or golden raisins, combine all of the above as you see fit in our usual Mediterranean dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and pressed garlic.
NORTH BEACH POLYPHONY — I’m sitting at the counter of the U.S. (U Sicilianu) Restaurant as I frequently do come noon in San Francisco, and the open kitchen is more than humming, Bennie flipping a Milanese, Gus thin-slicing Jack, Joelle shaping a hamburger patty bing-bing-bing-bing–BING. Out in the restaurant Jeannie’s arranging counter stools, the rickety one and the one that spins, Constantino’s pouring iced tea, Renee the weekday waitress with more than the requisite heart-o-gold surveys her kingdom. The dapper fish man arrives with salmon, halibut and small talk, the French bread deliverer rushes in, probably late, crumbs about to fly, the poet Ferlinghetti surveys all from his position in a not-Neapolitan mural, graciously tipping his hat . . .
AND JOELLE with sundown moonlights in the kitchen of that faithful buca Tommaso’s (ex-Lupo’s) a few blocks away. Tommaso’s is as endearing as ever. No sign of candles dripping wax over Chianti flasks — did I invent them? No, I think they’ve been edited out as too much of a Frank Capra-esque thing. But everything else, the comforting but rather original bill of fare, the romantic booths, the long communal table (presided over the other night by a dimpled bambina perched prettily at its Kearny Street end) were as our parents and grandparents knew them.
Considering the flood of Eye-talian food gushing out of some North Beach kitchens (from Coit Tower, of course!) it was delightful to experience Tommaso’s unflinchingly austere “Macaroni” — this misto mates mushrooms in a little oil-parsley&garlic with a generous hunk of peppery sausage. The color of this dish is almost grey, but the taste is golden. Add in the famous toasted peppers in oil and lemon to start and the chocolate pastry cream cannoli for dessert and you’re well in sight of perfection.
And naturally there were strangers sitting next to us at the long table who knew some of our friends in Santa Rosa . . .