Ham Fisted

The deeply satisfying dishes of Bar Bambino

The holidays are here, and we're celebrating the imminent cold streak with an onslaught of pork and cabbage–Italian-style.

There's been a recent glut of food in the Bay Area from less familiar regions of Italy, including in a cookbook and via sandwiches.

Now, with Bar Bambino's collection of substantial dishes from northeastern Italy, the chilly months have a new security blanket.

To assemble the menu, chef Elizabeth Binder pored over cookbooks with recipes from Friuli-Venezia Giulia and neighboring Slovenia and Croatia: Leave it to the Slovenian Women's Union of America to compile recipes for food that crackles with profound satisfaction.

Binder's bruschette ($12) is a superb snowdrift turnabout from familiar versions. In it, ham is mounted with leek-and-horseradish sauerkraut from Santa Cruz's Farmhouse Culture and then smothered with Montasio cheese. Take that, heirloom tomato.

Crisp shards of bacon are layered with cabbage, true Italian Fontina and sheets of eggy house-made pasta in her lasagnette ($17), the caraway seeds a welcome kiss of piney sweetness.

Even Brussels sprouts ($7), the workhorse of the holiday season, are treated well: The outer leaves are stripped, the hearts roasted with duck fat and speck, then the leaves wilted to order.

Suddenly, winter doesn't seem so daunting.

Bar Bambino, 2931 16th St.; 415-701-8466 or barbambino.com