SPQR is an Italian osteria, located in Pacific Heights, that serves wine and more casual food than their popular sister restaurant A16 in the Marina district. According to Wikipedia, “SPQR is an initialism from a Latin phrase, Senatus Populusque Romanus (“The Senate and the People of Rome” or “The Senate and Roman People”), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic”. Executive Chef, Matthew Accarrino, prepares “sophisticated, yet soulful, Italian cuisine using the best local ingredients, traditional and modern cooking techniques delivered in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.” Our last visit was in the middle of 2013.
This restaurant has gotten immensely popular after scoring a Michelin Star in 2013. We had to make reservations several weeks in advance. The food is great but the environment is cramped and loud. It is hard to have a leisurely dinner here. SPQR is now a neighborhood restaurant that the whole world knows about and may have eclipsed its sister restaurant A16.
Decor, Vibe – The place is small with no a lot of space between tables. It is located in the trendy Fillmore street shopping district. SPQR has counter seating for those without reservations. Diners included many couples, small groups, small families, with most people in their 30’s and 40’s.
The menu changes every couple days and features a big selection of appetizers, pasta, and six entrée’s. Diners can eat family style or individually. Many folks dined tapas style with lots of shared small plates. They feature a multi-course pasta tasting menu on Tuesday through Thursday.
You need to ask for bread. It comes with some decent olive oil.
Green garlic sformato, dungeness crab, sea urchin, porcini and mushroom biscotto ($22) is a signature dish and definitely a must order. The dish comes to the table covered in a foam that slowly dissipates. Lots of egg and seafood goodness under the foam.
Razor clam, smoked potato, black radish, taggiasca olive and ink sauce ($20) was a beautiful dish that tasted unusual. The potato was slightly bitter and the razor clam lightly fried.
Duck liver terrina, blenheim apricot, sicilian pistachio, elderflower and verjus agrodolce ($18) is a shoe-in for foie gras. Roughly 75% of the flavor, accented by the toasted bread and excellent cooked apricot.
Crispy pig’s ears tomatillo, dandelion, anaheim peppers & chili oil ($8) was an interesting appetizer with freshly fried tender and chewy cartilage on a bed of greens. Not exactly a challenging dish to devour given its quality.
Slow roasted carrot salad umbrian lentil, medjool date & our lardo ($14) is a popular starter that the waitress recommended. Nice tender roasted vegetables and variety to make this more interesting. A sure fire hit for vegetarians. Meat eaters should look elsewhere.
Local quail Swiss chard, farro roast stuffing, fuyu persimmon ($20) featured one large quail that was cooked to a perfect tender and pinkish medium rare. The barley like stuffing was pretty neutral, making it a nice balance dish.
Rigatoni, cauliflower crema, black truffle butter and pecorino tartufato ($21) a fairly creamy pasta that was made in house. Not very al dente, but still recommended for all including vegetarians.
Squid ink chittara, dungeness crab, shellfish broth and salmon roe ($23) was very black thin pasta. A little more of an acquired taste, this pasta was also very good.
Fusili, cider and bacon braised suckling pork and spigarello ($22) is an option for gluten free or egg free needs. The pasta was a dry pasta but still superb. The sauce was fairly mild, although we prefer the next version.
Fusili, veal bolognese, golden squash, garden rosemary and kohlrabi leaf ($23) had a superb pasta with lots of veal chunks and clearly a long simmered sauce.
Fusilli ($14) with pork and tomato ragu was a very good curly pasta with ample quantities of pork. Good solid dish
Beef Tongue with salsa verde ($8) was very tasty but very greasy. It had a green salsa verde on top that was not spicy.
Blonde panna ($12) was expensive for a dessert, but this fruity delight was not too sweet or creamy. Well done.
Des Honey Granita with poached quince and almond crema ($7.50) was a very good lighter dessert. The granita had subtle honey flavor and was accented with the quince below. The Creama was like sweeten condensed milk. Sweet and good.
Caramel panna cotta apple, cinnamon & florentine ($8) was a velvety smooth dessert that is highly recommended. Not too sweet, very fluffy, with a thin crunchy cookie to the side.
Veal breast & sweetbread leek, cranberry kumquat relish; black garlic sauce ($25) had a circular helping of veal that was dry and ineventful. The sweetbreads were deep fried balls of goodness to the side.
La Quercia Americano Prosciutto ($8) with melon and basil is a classic dish and executed just fine. The quality of the meat was good, slice thickness was pretty thin. Melon was a cantaloupe.
Lamb burger ($14) with pecorino (Aioli), and house made pickles had a real greasy lamb patty. It tasted fair and the lamb was not gamey, but the burger was too greasy.
Chantrelle Mushrooms with wilted spinach, lardo, lemon ($8) was too greasy and salty. Flavor of the mushrooms was average but the saltiness was overwhelming. Not much spinach to the dish.
Service was very good and professional considering how small and hectic SPQR was. No worries about refills or checking how the food was. Service was competent and fairly active. You still get a sense of being rushed because the place is so busy.
SPQR is a good place for a quick bite albeit not at an inexpensive price, if you want heavy duty Italian, their sister restaurant A16 or Perbacco is a better. Prices used to be more moderate and the restaurants earlier days.
A very nice wine selection with three-ounce tastings, glasses, half carafes and full bottles from $19. They have lots of different glasses of wine from $8 and even 3oz tastes from $5.50.
Be sure to check out the A16 Food and Wine Book