flour + water is a wildly popular Italian restaurant in the Mission district of San Francisco. They focus on hand rolled pastas, house cured meats, and an Italian pizza oven. The chef, Thomas McNaughton is a veteran of La Folie, Gary Danko, Quince. They take reservations and reserve half the place for walk ins, causing a line to form 20 min. before the place even opens.
Legend has it that Steve Jobs was once turned away because he didn’t have a reservation. A waitress did confirm it. Our last visit was in February, 2011 where we found that the food had improved since they opened in the middle of 2009.
Decor, Vibe – Narrow, long room with refurbished, repurposed and reclaimed wood, and a lot of it exposed. Dimly lit, eclectic music was blaring, making it hard to talk. People lined up before the place opened. A fair amount of couples, bigger parties, locals, with most casually dressed folks in the 30’s and 40’s. There were several families with kids, right when the place opened.
Menu Pictures (Click to zoom into any picture)
The menu changes daily and features about five antipasti starters, five pizza options, five pastas and three entrée’s. They had two specials available when we visited.
Website Flour and Water Menu
Complimentary house still or sparkling water.
Make sure you ask for their excellent Fire Brand bakery, Oakland bread.
shaved asparagus ($10) and arugula salad with a pancetta-caper vinaigrette was a very good salad. The dressing was strong enough to cover up a lot of the green’s intrinsic flavor. Nice cheese and bacon accents. A bunch of olives too.
Roasted pork loin ($26) with young purple cabbage, Thumbelina carrots, lentils and mustard Jus was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Very Tender and juicy meat, but a little on the small side portion-wise. Excellent lentils that just soaked up the au jus.
Salsiccia pizza ($17) nettles, garlic white wine sausage and bagna cauda was a super thin, not crispy pizza with very nice combination of ingredients that worked together. We chose to have the extremely heavy-handed bagna or anchovy oil splash on the side. Italian 900 degree Valoriani oven performed its duties well although we prefer a little more crispiness.
Spaghetti with sanguinaccio Ragu, black trumpets and Dino kale ($15) was a fairly small but excellent freshly made pasta featuring a meatty blood sausage-based sauce and al dente noodles. Pasta quantities are very skimpy, so you need to order an appetizer and possibly dessert.
nettle & ricotta triangoli with yellow foot mushrooms ($16) was a perfect triangular ravioli dish with a creamy sauce with some very small but strong yellow foot mushrooms.
strozzapreti with braised pork shoulder and spinach ($16) is a twisty pasta that came with a ton of succulent, tender pork, but not enough of the al dente pasta. Because it was so meaty, this pasta course could fulfill on main course duties.
whole wheat agnolotti dal plin ($17) sounded very healthy, but takes the form of ravioli like pasta filled with chicken, and bathed in a butter sauce with bits of crispy chicken chitterlings. Because this was made with wheat, the pasta was a bit dry on the inside, but did possess good flavor.
Rosemary garganelli ($18) with lamb cheek, Dino kale, and taggiasca olives was also a very meaty pasta with high quality lamb, omitting gaminess. Another good sized pasta portion that proved to be fulfilling.
braised pork cheek ($18) with borlotti beans and erbette chard had good amounts of tender braised pork on top of a bed of beans with a slight bit of chard. Flavors on the pork could have been more aggressive.
roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta vinaigrette & pecorino cheese ($6) was a rich and oily dish that will turn any vegetable hater into a believer.
sautéed greens with pine nuts, currants & balsamico ($6) was stellar. Fruity, wild greens, lite sauce made it go down fast.
Chocolate budino ($8) with espresso-caramel cream & sea salt is one of their signature dishes and a must order. A nice combination of silky smooth chocolate and creamy textures accented by a hint of salt.
margherita pizza ($13) tomato, basil, fior di latte, extra virgin olive oil was slightly above average. The middle was soggy, the crust very thin. Flavors were decent but the cheese did not stand out. Several burned areas on the crust. We tried this once with mozzarella di bufala ($3) add on and found it only slightly better. Una Pizza Napoletana still has our hearts.
roasted pork loin and belly ($26) with mustard greens, fingerling potatoes, Rosemary, and caramelized onion purée proved to be an interesting dish. The pork belly was tender and melted in our mouth, while the loin was slightly overcooked, not juicy, and a bit salty with the heavy sauce. Our previous 2011 experience with their roasted pork loin was far better.
corzetti stampati pasta ($16) with braised monterey squid and fava beans was very al dente. Could have used a lot more egg based thin pasta. The squid out numbered the pasta. Sauce was slightly spicy. A squid ink pasta we had at A16 was far better.
maltagliati pasta ($15) with brown butter braised giblets and ramps (onions) was also very al dente, more so that most places. The quantity of pasta was also pretty low. Flavors were solid.
flour + water had slightly above average service that was competent but not exceptional. One time, the server was training a new recruit who was desperately needed to give service more bandwidth. Another time, we had to wait forever for our server to come by. With so much business, it is time for them to hire more people.
Our take is that Flour and Water is an excellent neighborhood place elevated to stardom. The California Italian fusiony food, especially the pasta, is very good and surprisingly meaty, but not as spectacular as say Perbacco. If you have been thinking about trying flour + water, definitely give it a try, you will find it worthwhile.
Alternatives – Delfina is not far away and also a bet for Italian food.
Moderate wine markup, small selection. Glasses of wine from $6.50, bottles from $26.