Italian Atlas

What to order at Barbacco

Barbacco, the casual spin-off of the FiDi institution Perbacco, has dominated the city's restaurant mindscape since it debuted almost two months ago.

The psychic lockdown is warranted: Every dish we've eaten has been delicious, and the wine list is a studied marvel of standout producers poured in a variety of quantities.

The one downside: The choices can be overwhelming. Here, then, is a guide to a perfect dinner:

Begin with a glass of 2008 Donati Lambrusco ($11) and a selection of chef Sarah Burchard's fine salumi. We're especially fond of her smooth mortadella ($5) and her sublime testa rotolata ($5), a pig's-head roulade sliced into porky whispers and served with pickled shallots.

Follow with sautéed local squid ($8) in a zippy tomato sauce and some bruschette ($3 each, or 3 for $8)–especially brawnier ones like duck liver pâté with red onion marmelata and balsamic syrup. (Both are happily also available on the lunch menu.)

Your mantra–at both dinner and lunch–should be "get the chicken," as Barbacco plays fowl impeccably. Chicken thighs ($11) are braised with white wine, roasted chicken stock and rosemary in an open pan so the skin crisps. The succulent chicken is then set on a spread of sautéed escarole, Castelvetrano olives and toasted almonds.

It's a careful interplay of sophistication and comfort–like the restaurant's ideal dessert: butterscotch ice cream ($2) studded with crunchy bits of milk chocolate feuilletine.

Barbacco, 220 California St. (bet. Battery and Front sts.); 415-955-1919 or barbaccosf.com