Super fresh Italian tastes at humble Elmira Rosticceria 

click to enlarge Don’t miss the flawless eggs Benedict and roasted potatoes at Elmira Rosticceria, an unassuming eatery in Civic Center. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Don’t miss the flawless eggs Benedict and roasted potatoes at Elmira Rosticceria, an unassuming eatery in Civic Center.
It’s no secret that I’m more than a little obsessed with Italy. One of my favorite things about that country (besides the wine, and the coffee, and the gelato, and the scenery, and the…OK, you get the idea) is how easy it is to get phenomenal food no matter where you are. The tiniest, most unassuming storefront can house morsels of culinary goodness that might change your life forever — or, at the very least, make your day better.

Elmira Rosticceria, a humble little spot near the UN Plaza, reminds me of those places. The smell of roasting meat permeates the air when you walk in—always a good sign, if you ask me — and a chalkboard menu lays out the day’s dishes. At first glance it might look like a café, but the food coming out of Elmira’s kitchen is anything but pedestrian coffee shop fare.

The dishes change seasonally, but the lunch centerpiece here is spit-roasted meat, usually in sandwich form. I was immediately drawn to the pork shoulder sandwich, which both thrilled and perplexed me. The meat is masterfully cooked — juicy, tender, subtly seasoned to let the pork’s natural flavor shine through, thick toothsome hunks interspersed with the perfect amount of crispy, crunchy bits.

The sandwich is simple, designed to give the pork center stage, with only a spoonful of garlicky salsa verde to accompany the meat and bread. I applaud the simplicity, but I found myself wanting more moisture to balance out the thick sandwich roll. Halfway through I abandoned the bread altogether and went at the meat with a fork. This decision led to zero regrets.

I couldn’t resist the side of potatoes roasted in pork drippings (and if you can, I’d like to know who built you, robot). Uniformly crispy browned skins house ethereally fluffy puffs of potato that burst with savory richness and melt on the tongue.

Elmira’s rotisserie chicken is a simple, tasty meal, a half bird with golden skin and moist meat. Crunchy crystals of sea salt and a bright pop of lemon enhance the chicken’s light natural flavor.

Breakfast offerings range from sweet to savory, the standout being Elmira’s eggs benedict, a stroke of Italian genius. A pile of thinly-sliced speck is draped over pillows of herbed focaccia, crowned by two poached eggs with gloriously oozey golden yolks and a coating of truffled hollandaise sauce.

Speck is one of my favorite creations, a northern Italian specialty similar to prosciutto but with a hint of smoke, and the decision to use it as the ham component in a benedict deserves an award. Its deep, meaty porcine goodness weaves together beautifully with the rich undertone of earthy truffle and the silky elegance of the sauce. This dish stunned me with its sophistication, depth of flavor, and the care gone into its creation. Each time I’ve ordered it, every element has been cooked to perfection, no small feat when it comes to brunch cuisine.

That’s what I enjoy about Elmira. It’s obvious from every bite of food that an immense amount of love has been put into each dish, and while they might not all be flawless, they all exhibit thoughtfulness and honest, rustic charm. Fresh, flavorful ingredients prepared with care — sometimes that’s all it takes to make the day better.

Elmira Rosticceria

Location: 154 McAllister St. (near Hyde Street), S.F.

Contact: (415) 551-7332,

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays Price range: $2 to $14

Recommended dishes: Eggs Benedict ($14), 1/2 rotisserie chicken ($14), roasted potatoes ($3.50), pork shoulder sandwich ($11)

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: Not accepted

About The Author

Wendy Hector

Wendy Hector

Restaurant reviewer for the SF Examiner.
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