Palio d’Asti serves as an old-world respite in downtown San Francisco.
Since 1999, when he partnered up with the legendary San Francisco restaurateur Gianni Fassio, chef and co-owner Dan Scherotter has worked to make Palio a place where people come to celebrate and enjoy food made the old way, with traditional techniques, authentic and local ingredients, and a bit of local flair.
But starting in July, one European culinary experience will no longer be available to Palio’s customers—or anyone else in California for that matter—when locally raised foie gras (fattened duck liver) will be banned over the objections of chefs throughout the state.
Once an item offered only on special occasion menus, Palio will be featuring this carefully cultivated and much sought-after favorite of gourmets and gourmands daily until it becomes illegal.
“Long before it was chic, Palio bought locally grown organic produce from family farmers and free range, sustainable agriculture and aquaculture,” says Scherotter.
“Why? Because that’s how it’s done in Italy, and authenticity is the byword we live by. These small producers and artisans are the lifeblood of a healthy food system and the only line of defense against bland, industrial agribusiness products, which diminish not only flavor, but our connection to the past.
“The fact that certain small farmers will literally be put out of business because of a practice that dates back to Egyptian times is misguided legislative meddling in my book. But at least for the next six months, we’ll be featuring it daily in changing seasonal preparations."
Foie gras is available at the downtown San Francisco Italian restaurant as a $10 supplement to any dish ordered from either our à la carte lunch or evening prix fixe dinner menu, which allows guests to mix and match any two courses for $31, three courses for $39, or four courses for $45.”
Having studied and worked in Italy, Scherotter is a walking encyclopedia of Italian regional culinary history.
Palio’s winter menu is heavily focused on favorites from the northern regions of Italy and takes a head to tail, root to shoot approach to using every part of the vegetable or animal in various preparations.
In addition to an appetizer of Fegato Grasso Hazelnut-Crusted Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Balsamic-Glazed Cipollini Onions and Shredded Radicchio ($5 supplement at dinner), loyal denizens can enjoy starters such as Assaggi di Carne, Caccia e Pollame, a plate of Prosciutto San Daniele, Country Pâté, Smoked Duck Breast, Mustard Pickled Vegetable Salad; Minestra Maritata “Wedding Soup” with five preparations of Pork and different Greens; or a Red Wedge Salad of Baby Beets, Radicchio, Blood Orange, White Anchovies, and Aged Sherry Vinaigrette.
Four Pizzas and a Risotto of the Day join several Primi Piatti house-made pastas including Linguini with Local Dungeness Crab, Wood-Baked Gnocchi Potato Dumplings with Braised Muscovy Duck, Wild and Tame Mushrooms, and Porcini Mushroom, and Ricotta Ravioli with heritage turkey sugo.
Available as either a first course or an entree is Taragna, Warm Corn, and Buckwheat Polenta with Brown Butter, Sage, and Parmigiano Reggiano topped with one of four hearty sauces.
In addition to a meal that includes the “soon to be illegal” Slow Roasted Muscovy Duck Leg and Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Savoy Cabbage, Baby Carrots, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce, and Mostarda de Cremona, white tablecloth diners can enjoy entrees of Lemon-Glazed Local Rock Cod Filet and PEI Mussels, Pan-Roasted, Marsala-Glazed Organic Chicken Breast with Sundried Tomato Tapenade, and Veal Scaloppine alla Picatta with Sautéed Escarole and Garlic, among others.
Creative desserts, which can be part of the prix fixe dinner courses, include Lemon Meringue Tart with Pistachio Crust, Panna Cotta Pudding with Roasted Red Grapes and Pinot Noir Reduction, Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut Caramel Sauce, and a selection of House-Made Cookies, Truffles & Biscotti, and flavored organic Italian chocolates.
All are available for pairing with an extensive Wine Spectator Restaurant Wine List Award-winning list and full bar selections overseen by Partner and Maitre d' Martino DiGrande, who hails from a long line of Sicilian chefs and restaurateurs and brings a new generation’s perspective and an owner’s personal oversight to the dining room, cellar and bar offerings.
Open Monday through Friday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm for à la carte lunch, and Monday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9:00 pm for prix fixe dinner, Palio is located at 640 Sacramento Street between Kearny and Montgomery in San Francisco.