Trattoria Contadina, Russian Hill/North Beach, San Francisco

After attending the first SF Mystery Meet at Beast and the Hare (BMH review of Beast and the Hare),we co-hosted with Seth, the founder of  Mystery Meet the second dinner.

By reminder,  “Mystery Meet brings together adventurous foodies for a night of social dining at the hottest restaurants. There’s only one catch…you don’t know where you’re going until 24 hours in advance!

This month’s clues were: Joltin’ Joe grew up here. Boot food. Joe Montana and Neil Sedaka hang here. Opened its doors the same year that Discovery made its maiden voyage. Leave your problems at the front door.

Over a dozen diners and a few familiar faces from the first dinner met at Trattoria Contadina located in North Beach on a side corner, on Mason, right near the cable cars.

We were welcomed by the friendly staff and the restaurant was fully packed with families, business folks and couples and was simply decorated. The bar had holiday lights, the walls were covered with photographs and framed art. Our group sat in the smaller, upstairs dining room, which was definitely cozy.

We chose Trattoria Contadina because we heard it was a solid restaurant, in fact one of the best in North Beach. A colleagues said the eggplant appetizer and pepper and cheese are a must get. Unfortunately, the Melanzane alla Mozzarella Sautéed nor Pepperoni Arrostiti were not on our select menu. Who doesn’t want slices of eggplant with a fresh tomato sauce, black olives, basil and melted mozzarella cheese for $11.00 or roasted sweet yellow bell peppers layered with bel paese, asiago and mozzarella cheeses, served with a spicy tomatoes cream sauce $7.50. Next time indeed.We started with some fresh Italian bread, olive oil and some of us added a bit of balsamic vinaigrette with the oil.

One of our favorite couples were drinking Mazzocco‘s Cabernet Sauvignon from Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. They reminded us to go to Trattoria Siciliana for some of the best mushroom ravioli and ice cream Ici  on College Avenue in Berkeley. Two highly recommendations from two trusted sources are a must.

Diners had a choice between the Casare or Mista salad. One of our dining companions had the Mista with mixed greens, tomato, olives, asiago cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, which looked light and refreshing.

The majority of the table went for the Casare which had a nice balance of fresh hearts of romaine, classic Caesar dressing (with anchovies), salty parmesan cheese and crunchy garlic croutons.

Two platters of Antipasto arrived at our table with cured meats and cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, warm olives, roasted peppers and pepperoncini, drizzled with olive oil for $16.00. Most of the salame disappeared and what was left was the pepperoncini and a few olives.Our lively dialogue included careers (for-profit vs non-profit), favorite tech companies (including Square and Dropbox) online relationships (Lesson learned…there are so many success stories!), love, differences between East Coast vs West Coast (tradition vs progressive, aggressive vs mellow) the science of cooking, baking substitutions, speed dating experiences, the love of London and clotted cream and next travel destinations.

No one at our table ordered the Spinali  Orecchietta, garlic sausage, radicchio, arugula, olives, roasted garlic, however we wonder if the other table of 6 ordered it and how was it? After our entrees, half of us swapped tables and made sure we met some of the other Mystery Meet diners.

We chose the second recommendation from our friendly waiter, the Salvatore Chicken ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, garlic and a marscapone cheese sauce for $17.00. The chicken ravioli was nicely filled, fresh and really enjoyed the cheese sauce, however the large sprigs of rosemary was a major deterrant. Unfortunately, we the sprigs could have been chopped finely or a little bit less used because it was slightly overpowering.

We tasted our vegetarian dining companion’s choice of the Melanzane Rigatoni pasta with sautéed eggplant with Roma tomatoes, onions, olives, melted mozzarella cheese and homemade tomato sauce for $17.00. The pasta had a nice texture and homemade red sauce was super tasty.

Most of the table ordered the waiter’s first choice recommendation  of the Carlesimo Rigatoncelli pasta with pancetta, porcini mushrooms, peas, sun-dried tomatoes and a mildly spiced tomato cream sauce for $18.00.   The spicy tomato cream sauce was just so good and the pasta nicely al dente and had a nice mix of mushrooms, Italian bacon, peas and tomatoes. We wish we had ordered this dish.

The dessert plate or Dolci (all $7 each) was an impressive spread. There was a slice of Homemade Tiramisu Rum and espresso soaked lady fingers, Layered with mascarpone cheese, Spumoni Ice Cream Cake Vanilla, Chocolate, Pistachio, and Strawberry layered ice cream cake, Torta di Cioccolato Chocolate cappuccino mousse cake fresh whipped cream and Pumpkin cheesecake. 

Our favorites were the pistachio scented Spumoni and Chocolate cappuchino mousse cake. Most of our table felt the tiramisu was something they could find at other restaurants.

Would we return? One of the Mystery Meet diners used to eat at Trattoria Contadina 15 years ago when he lived in North Beach and said was a good neighborhood place. We think Trattoria Contadina is great for group dining, not necessarily for a date. It definitely is a lively atmosphere, the service is excellent, food is good, but there are so many places in North Beach. We would be back to finally sample the eggplant, roasted pepper and cheese and maybe some of Carlesimo.

We wonder where Mystery Meet will be hosted next? There were a few diners mentioning about a Sunday high tea (after discussing at length about London) and there were several requests for ethnic food. Perhaps some Indian or Vietnamese.

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