People lose their sh*t for Locanda, and we can see why.
The masses are three deep at the bar on Friday nights, producing serious noise and energy. The showcase pastas are well-executed, and the famous puffed up Jerusalem artichoke adeptly walks the line between gimmicky and delicious. They've got a giant sign outside that proclaims in neon: "Cocktails." It's our kind of spot.
But we don't find ourselves running back, unless we're able to slide in at the bar on a less crazy night. Why? Mostly because the pasta in this town is really, really good. The top tier, comprised of the likes of Flour + Water and SPQR, is untouchable. But even more generalist restaurants, like Tosca and Rich Table, are putting out killer noodles (and filled dumplings, to be comprehensive). Let's call them Group 1A, at least.
Locanda, in the Mission, doesn't quite make either of these categories. The cacio e pepe is strong, and simple, as is the bucatini. They're just not all the way to the pinnacle.
So we find ourselves wandering by, peeking in at the crowds, and deciding on something else. Locanda is a good restaurant, but it's often not worth the madness.
One of the coolest-looking dishes in the city. Somehow they get this artichoke to puff up like it's a giant fried sunflower. The flavor is there, too. You just gotta love the taste of organic fryer oil, which we do.
If we had to choose one type of pasta to take to a metaphorical desert island, cacio e pepe would be high on the list. Cheese and pepper are hard to beat. This is a classic version, and very good. It just does't have that perfect salt/fat/spice alchemy that the best ones do.
Another classic. The red sauce dominates a bit over the cheese and meaty bits,when we were craving more fat flavor. Give us that fat.
Despite the sausage, not as punchy as the previous two.
Perfectly rare slices of meat over a bed of nicely-done vegetables. Not much to say here: if you like lamb, this should be on the table.