Related Articles: Restaurants, All

Il Cane Rosso

  • Il Cane Rosso
    One Ferry Building, # 41, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Map)
    +1 415.391.7599

Il Cane Rosso is a deeply affordable and well-pedigreed Southern Italian sandwich shop and rotisserie in the Ferry Building, in the stall across the hall from the bustling Slanted Door. The space previously housed Mistral, another rotisserie, and it’s an even more lovely addition to the local culinary scene.

Like Boulette’s Larder, its Ferry Building neighbor, Il Cane Rosso creates the impression that you’ve walked into a beautifully staged farmhouse kitchen. Unfortunately, this impromptu feeling, which works so well for the décor, seems to carry over to the restaurant’s management — it’s often unexpectedly closed or out of many of its menu items.

Il Cane Rosso's owners, Daniel Patterson, chef/owner of North Beach’s Coi, and Lauren Kinno, chef/owner of soon-to-open Bracina, have left the cooking to Douglas Borkowski, who has worked the stoves at Google’s famed cafeteria and Delfina.

Patterson’s thoughtful views on eating are expressed both at Coi and in his frequent contributions to the New York Times Sunday magazine. Although Il Cane Rosso has none of Coi’s sleek refinement, one can feel Patterson’s influence in the locally sourced ingredients, as well as in the unusually precise execution of the food.

Ambiance is quite no frills. There’s designated seating at metal tables outside, facing the Bay and Treasure Island, and dining al fresco is a joy for most of the year. But the tables are also exposed to the City’s less romantic elements, including the cold fog, and, on a recent visit, an unexpected hug around the neck from a homeless man passing by.

Menu items are generally successful. Porchetta, the Roman crispy-skinned roast pork, comes as a rotisserie plate ($12.50) or in a sandwich ($9). The meat is lovely (although it has less of the crunchy, fatty deliciousness than one finds in Italy and at Manhattan’s Porchetta sandwich shop). A pork-and-pepper ragu, served over polenta ($13.50), is a brilliant rustic meal. A shaved zucchini salad ($7.50), on the other hand, was oddly heavy and monotonous.

The menu changes with the season and the product availability, but most of the sandwiches and the rotisserie chicken ($12.50) seem to have a permanent place on the butcher-paper menu on the wall.

This little stall seems to understand our economic moment, when tourists and locals alike are willing, even eager, to pay $9 for an extraordinary sandwich rather than the costlier prices at a sit-down restaurant of similar quality.

With so much compelling food at the Ferry Building, we were almost hoping to be disappointed by Il Cane Rosso. Alas, it’s quite good.

Italian Sandwiches/Rotisserie
Embarcadero
$
Reservations Essential? No