SPQR is one of those restaurants where you're idly chatting with your companions until the first plate hits the table. At that moment, the phrase that comes to mind is, "whoa, these guys are for real." To quote ourselves (who better?), "Good lord."
In fact, if we had to pick a word to describe this place, it's ambitious. Every dish feels like a miniature Jackson Pollock, sweated over for months. These pieces of art are ferried to your table with astonishing regularity and consistency. In SF, this "every detail matters" vibe is something that's missing at a lot of places, including many of our favorites.
Which is okay! But sometimes you want to get out of beet-and-goat-cheese-salad mode and into saffron-rigatoni-with-white-anchovy mode. Or maybe you don't. But we do.
That's a nice segue into the pastas, which are generally bloody brilliant. They change seasonally, so you can't really count on any of them being on the menu, but we'd recommend going with something really seasonal - we had a corn ravioli that done changed the game - and something that sounds a little crazy. Duck casonsei, persimmon, amaranth? We only know one of those four words, but, f*ck it, we'll do it live. Also, if the smoked fettuccine uni carbonara is on the menu, you must order it.
The prices are what a more euphemistic observer might call "commensurate with quality." We would say they're pretty high. This is not an every-week restaurant unless you're in finance and just moved from New York, or sold your startup for some of that juicy pre-IPO equity.
But is it worth it? For sure. The vibe is a little east-coast cramped, but buzzing, and SPQR is one of the few places in town that makes a run at the pasta crown. And that is a crown worth having.
Sweet Carrot and Lentil Salad
Perhaps the most fancy-looking concoction here - the carrots are splayed out in a way that resembles a piece of "modern art." No matter. It is pretty delicious, recommend.
Broccoli, Hen of the Wood Mushroom
A little mushroom garden from which to eat? Sign us up.
This is only available during corn season, which is...when? When is corn season? Someone look this up so we can go back for it.
Smoked Fettuccine, Uni Carbonara
The dish we've had and enjoyed on numerous repeat encounters. It's an automatic order.
Red Beet and Beef Cheek Farrotto Verde
A little off-kilter, you have to be down for the beet flavor (and color) looming over your nearly-risotto.
This appeared to be a jenga game in pasta form. It was honestly 6-9 inches tall. (But does size matter?) It tasted good, that's all we know.
Meyer Lemon Fettuccine, Abalone “Alfredo”
Seriously people, what the f*ck is abalone alfredo? This doesn't even make sense anymore. Continue consuming.
Duck Casonsei, Persimmon, Amaranth
Half moon ravioli stuffed with duck. That's all you need to know.
Bone Marrow Sformato
We're going to call sformato "Italian flan." And this is made of bone marrow. You know what you're signing up for. It's damned good if you're down.
Peanut and Milk Chocolate Pudding
They do pretty cool things with stacked, parfait-like puddings at SPQR. Hit whichever is available.