According to my pocket Chinese almanac, Feb. 14 is good for repairing and leveling roads, but bad for planting or beginning a long journey. Is this a metaphorical warning? As Tuesday looms, come up with a plan or, inauspiciously, you may be hitting the road.
Here are some last-minute ideas that just might stave off a bumpy road.
516 Green St., S.F., (415) 989-1806
1534 Stockton St., S.F., (415) 693-0990
Spend an evening in North Beach. Who, after all, are more romantic than Italians? Caffe Baonecci, an under-the-radar outpost of all things Tuscan, immerses patrons in almost cinematic small-town cafe life. I’d put Baonecci pizza up against any in The City. Choose the sensual monte bianco ($19.95), a tomato and mozzarella pizza finished with thin slices of dewy, freshly cut prosciutto and a scoop of mascarpone that melts over the top — a masterpiece. Rigatoni puttanesca ($14.95) is excitingly al dente, with plenty of spicy red chili. Or stay tender with a small bowl of Baonecci’s classic Tuscan soup, a velvety white bean puree studded with farro (wheat berries) and a big drizzle of olive oil ($4.95). End with a perfect short espresso and tiny, crumbly, ball-shaped sandwich cookies appropriately named lady’s kisses.
Have a nightcap amaro at cozy, retro Tony Nik’s, another neighborhood secret.
355 11th St. (at Folsom Street), S.F., (415) 355-9400
I like to celebrate the mandatorily festive holidays — New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, my birthday — at insouciant Bar Agricole, the farm-to-bar and farm-to-table eco restaurant with a soaring, contemporary decor. This Valentine’s Day, Bar Agricole encourages broader participation by offering a free glass of Champagne to parties of three or more. Ingenious Chef Brandon Jew, whose cooking is appealingly simple but stunningly original, has come up with a sexy four-course $80 menu that is meant to be shared: puntarella with avocado and citrus vinaigrette; chestnut soup with brown butter; duck with winter vegetables and wild mushrooms; or crab with artichokes, green garlic and fried farro. Citrus souffle with citrus zabaglione is for dessert. If four people celebrate together, the table can get both duck and crab. Who says only couples go out on Valentine’s Day? Why not four food-loving friends?
1963 Sutter St. (at Fillmore Street), S.F., (415) 776-6783
Valentine’s Day on a work night can challenge romantics who yearn to stay near the boudoir, but don’t have time to shop and cook. Roostertail, the new chicken rotisserie, has you covered. Call ahead to order a whole roast chicken ($18.50) and a cornucopia of Roostertail’s sparkly sides. Don’t pass up thick slices of voluptuous chocolate bundt cake ($4). Pay on the phone by credit card. Get a pickup time and then just pull up in front. A takeout “concierge” will run your order out to you.
1494 California St. (at Larkin Street), S.F., (415) 202-8521
In this hidden restaurant with a minuscule open kitchen and windows at sidewalk level, chef-owner Gabriel Amaya cooks a handful of dishes from almost daily forays at farmers markets. His food sings. After dinner, as you walk up the few stairs from the dining room onto California, you can feel the low rumble of moving cable under your feet, a presage of vibrations to come.