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The Last Supper Club

Luna Park's Immaculate Conception

With the opening of The Last Supper Club at Valencia and 23rd, neighborhood superstars A.J. Gilbert and Joe Jack established themselves as prime movers of inexpensive, casual dining glam in San Francisco's Mission District. Catering to a stylish, youthful crowd with good taste and modest bank accounts, the pair responsible for the highly successful Luna Park have basically twinned their first endeavor, all the way down to menu design, Mojito preparation, and little plastic cocktail monkeys. However, they've added a mature rusticism that is sure to welcome a broader audience of Italophiles as well as householders in the Outer Mission, Glen Park, Noe Valley and Bernal Heights.

Glowing with popularity, even on a Sunday or Monday night, The Last Supper Club affords a satisfying dining experience. One minus: a particularly green (albeit charismatic and gorgeous) waitress left us hanging at one point; management seemed not to notice when it took 10-15 minutes to get a glass of wine to go with hot food that had already arrived. However, her suggestion of a well-structured Spanish Merlot was redeeming, and who can get too agitated when your heavy, Douglas fir table is full of opulent, home-style Italian dishes served in leisurely, well-timed courses?

In the shadow of a huge, cherubim-studded fountain gurgling by the open kitchen, start with an exquisite vegan soup of giant butter beans and asparagus shards ($5), or a stimulating beef carpaccio overrun with shaved artichoke hearts and fresh herbs ($7.50). Also stunning are the oversized, pluffy gnocchi glazed with a luxurious venison Bolognese ($12.50), for which a return visit was made recently (the service was much smoother on that visit).

Salads, pastas and starters are numerous and range from simple, like the half head of romaine with Italian dressing ($6), to adventurous, like spaghetti with sardines, currants, fennel and pine nuts ($10.95). Like Luna Park, The Last Supper Club offers the candle-warmed, red glass fondue set-up as a starter (fontina and black truffle with bread, $6.50) and as a dessert (Nutella with bananas and sponge cake, $6).

Main courses, which range from $12 for a brick-grilled chicken to $36 for a char-grilled Bistecca alla Fiorentina for two, include two standouts: meaty, grilled lamb T-bones with zingy olive-fig tapenade ($16.75), and their polar opposite, smoky, perfectly tender veal Saltimbocca ($15.50), which on another visit became pork Saltimbocca. Braised lamb over polenta is shot through with green flavors and knocked over by piles of favas and asparagus. Desserts like the tingly zabaglione with fresh berries ($6) are pretty good, and the tiramisu is even fabulous, but not as essential as the savories on the dinner menu.

All in all, the 110-seat restaurant is a success, a welcome addition to the outer limits of the Valencia corridor. Weekend brunch and limited outdoor seating are appealing, as well.