A new shop has moved into the space recently vacated (in a hurry, it seemed) by Cafe Giuseppe. That coffee and gelato shop, in a bright space on Silver and Wellesley in Nob Hill, was a place I always wanted to like but never really did. The location was awesome, the multi-room space charming, and yet it just never quite felt right to me.
For those of you who loved it - and I know Giuseppe had a loyal following - I hope you can swallow your disappointment and try its replacement. Limonata, sister to "well-kept secret" Torino's @ Home, keeps the charm of Cafe Giuseppe and pours in plenty more of its own.
When you enter the first of Limonata's three rooms, you might well be distracted from the counter staff's cheery welcome by the lovely glass display cases. One case is full of tortes - not cakes, but Italian-style quiches - and panini. The tortes are much flatter than quiche and served in wide squares, and the emphasis is on their vegetable fillings. The egg custard that surrounds the vegetables and cheese is creamy and rich, but the overall effect is light. Arne and I shared a leek torte and a zucchini one, and both were delicious. A bonus for folks avoiding meat: All of the tortes are vegetarian.
The antipasto platter for two, which we shared on our previous visit, is very much not vegetarian. It features both speck and prosciutto - two different styles of Italian ham - as well as peppered salami. All three are exemplary. Also on our board were two balsamic onions, olives, roasted peppers with tuna salad, herbed goat cheese, grilled zucchini, and gorgeous, oily, smoky grilled eggplant. I hope one of their panini features that eggplant, because I want more. A cute little paper-lined metal bucket filled with four slices of excellent bread accompanied the board. In my opinion no one ever serves enough bread with this kind of thing, but we managed to make it last.
Limonata gets the little things right. Smiling counter staff take your order and deliver your food to you on pretty plates. The lemonade is strong and not too sweet. Instead of dressing your salad for you, they have three choices of vinaigrette in tall, elegant glass bottles to serve yourself from. We tried the shallot vinaigrette and it was wonderful. Staff comes by to check up on you, and they actually listen to what you have to say. And all the food is delicious - it has that handmade taste, like it was made by someone who really cares.
There are lots more things I want to try. There's the whole second display case, which is full of sweets (I have my eye especially on the little lemon tarts); they also have really delicious-looking gelato, pastries, and coffee. There's also a small selection of fancy Italian groceries including cherries in syrup, olive oil, and stunningly beautiful dried pasta. I'm glad I live nearby, because I expect to visit Limonata a lot.