2931 16th St, San Francisco, CA | Directions 9410337.765139 -122.418278
Neighborhoods: Central East, Mission
Dedicated to modern Italian food and wine, this hip wine bar and bistro in the Mission offers a new perspective on the cuisine of the "Old Country." – The checkered tablecloths, mounds of pasta, and family-friendly vibe of your stereotypical Italian joint get the boot at this boutique bistro. in their place? Small plates, artisanal cheese and house-cured meats, a long list of interesting Italian wines and a vibe that's more downtown New York than Mission District. Though it's off a particularly grimy stretch of 16th, this baby's a Prada-friendly refuge, with dark wood paneling, hip/attractive waitstaff, (slightly cramped) communal tables and two-tops, and sun-baked back patio floored with what seems like bocce ball court-sand: nice. Favorite dishes include the Caprese salad, Italian BLT, and braised pork shoulder, meant to be paired with the 120-bottle wine list, 10 beers, and espresso (all imported from Italy, of course).
Wish this place was better – I have been to Bar Bambino 3 times over the last 6 months, and I really wish it was better. It would be very interesting to have a nice, destination restaurant on this block of the Mission. Consistently, however, the food portions here are small, expensive, and not very interesting. This seems most obvious with the pasta selections. The wine selection is mostly non-American (it may be all non-American, I am not sure) and it seems that it is pretty easy to get a pour from a bottle that has been open too long. The wine stem wear are not the best, and the space is cramped and dark as another reviewer has noted. Overall, it is pretty much not worth going into this sketchy block of the Mission for the place.
Does the Website work? – Shall I mention the fact that when I click on "Contact" on your website it does nothing? Was I too hopeful that it lead me to a way of making a reservation on lIne? Silly me.
Good concept, needs work – We tried Bar Bambino twice, once with a party of two and another time as a party of six. both times, we were impressed with the wine list, the concept, (really authentic,) great execution on the food and the cheeses and salumi were top notch. I even found a bottle of wine from the Alto Adige region of Italy where I stayed with a friend's family once. (My family lives further south).
So I thought it would be an excellent experience to share with other friends. Was I disappointed when after making reservations well in advance, having them confirmed and showing up a tiny bit early, that our table wasnt even near to being ready. We were promised a table (Clare, the hostess pointed it out) and friends happen to have been sitting at the adjoining table. (the place is tightly packed). The hostess or whoever decided to turn that table twice in the time frame alloted for one dinner. As a result, we were waiting more than 45 minutes for that table to finish. I was told repeatedly that there is a two hour window for each dining party, but that seemed really phony after consulting with my amigos at the adjoining table. We were made to stand either in a crowded hall or out on 16th and Capp (I've lived here all my life and never thought I'd be standing on that sketchy corner for any reason). We were put off repeatedly and NOT EVEN OFFERED A GLASS OF WINE while we waited. (This, for your information is the custom in most good restaurants in Italy and around the world). Plus, miss hostess was obviously in over her head, and not treating waiting customers professionally. After almost an hour wait, we decided to try another place. Not fun on a Friday night after you go through all the trouble to make resos, and show up. If you like drunk screaming yuppies and inept service in a beautiful space in a terrible neighborhood, this is the place. I will NEVER go back - neither will my friends.
Molto Bene – I have been reading about Bar Bambino for a couple of weeks and finally got a chance to check it out last night. Arrived rather late, but the restaurant was still bumping, and didn't have to wait to be seated! Sat right at the bar and check out all the action. Not only was the scene great but the food was even more amazing. As a first generation Italian-American I have a pretty high bar for italian food and Bar Bambino passed the test. My measuring stick is "is this a place I would take my father too?" and the answer is Si SI!!
The heirloom tomatoes were amazing, the mozzarella was the closest I have had to the real thing in quite a while. It was tough picking what to eat with such an appealing menu, but the speck panini and eggplant polpete did not disappoint.
My only suggestion is that the waitstaff should be more engaging, like the hostess!!!
Amazing Wine List, Cheeses and Meats!! – Does anyone know about this place? I found an amazing cheese and meat selection - I felt like I was at whole foods which such a wonderful variety! and Chris, the owner is on premise making sure you get the wine the you enjoy. He turned me on to a Kerner that had beauftiful acidity with lush fruit - really delicous. I've been in the wine industry for 20 years and I feel like I can go there and get something different w/ the knowledge to back it up. It's better than Incanto which I think is excellent. Go w/ an open mind - it's not huge portion fast food, however, the portions are more than adequate and the tastes are incredible. Highly recommended!
the portions were WAY TOO SMALL – Way too pricey for what was served to us. We ordered the Tuna and Canelloni appetizer. It was no better than if I had cracked open and strained the beans myself, added a dash of EVOO, salt, pepper and some chunck light tongul tuna. Next came our pasta for our entree. Mine was buccatini with kale, cauliflower, pancetta, pine nuts and raisons. The sause was to die for but there was barely enough of this $14.00 dish to feed a 10 year old for lunch! The portions are for bambinos and not for adults and their hard earned cash!
Rookie Season – More chaos than not - which added to the fun for us. We went for wine and pre-dinner appetizers. Wine was OK, but not served in the appropriate glasses. The one appetizer we had (Bruschette Di Capri) was excellent. Plates fell, silverware scattered and the cappucino machine exploded - the "barista" looked like he had the coffee measles and we harmlessly wiped off coffee bean shrapnel.
Not bad – OK -- some good wine. The pasta was good. And the salumi was interesting. A bit cramped and dark.
A really good experience – Bar Bambino is an oasis at 16th and Mission; the folks there have created a clean and inviting space for drinking wine and enjoying small plates of fresh Italian food. Attention to detail is evident in the decor, the menus (leather, spiral bound with icons embossed on the cover), the rolled napkins, the staff's knowledge of the food and wine and the food itself. Once I chose a bruschetta (egg/cheese with truffle), the server recommended a salad that complimented it well; next time I will try a pasta as my neighbor's made me wish I were hungrier. The menu is presented so that you could enjoy several courses, or just share appetizers, salads, olive oil and cheese. It is a small place, but it still works for large groups as there a large communal wedding in the window and the small tables can be grouped.
San Francisco is smart enough to have found Bar Bambino -- it was packed on the Tuesday I was there. It's a place that deserves its buzz.
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