Penny Roma – More Flour + Water Group Fun


Penny Roma opened in October 2021 by the Flour+Water group, so right off the bat you know it’s going to be good. It’s in the beautiful old Central Kitchen space but illuminated. They still have the outdoor heated courtyard with the retractable ceiling, but somehow the color refresh — skewing the blue/gray with light woods — feels sunnier.

The kitchen is more airy than before, framed by open shelving and plants, and the seating at the bar gives you a great view of the whole stage. Penny Roma is aiming for simpler, more family-friendly dishes, perhaps not as elaborate as the original F+W, but still all homemade pasta (available to take home at their pasta shop, which also opened during the pandemic.) Trick Dog, their hip cocktail bar, flanks the other side. A pretty tasty conglomerate to find on a small block.

We took a chance and arrived walk-in at 5:30pm, just as they opened. Although it was Easter Sunday with a queue at the door (all had reservations) we walked straight in.

I started with amberjack believedtangerine, avocado and espelette:

Yellowtail, mandarin, avocado, espelette.

The amberjack was light, crisp and super fresh, in a pool of bright tangerine juice and avocado aioli, generously sprinkled with fruit Espelette pepper. Even the fish-averse BF had a bite and growled his approval. i was in heaven

Then, to share, a starter of Proscuitto San Dainiel, Shinko pear, and Fiore Sardo.

Prosciutto & pears.

Firm, crisp and juicy pear slices, Anjou style, with delicately salted prosciutto, and umami-rich Fiore sardo, a Sardinian cheese, also called Pecorino Sardo. A perfect savory/sweet combination, a twist on its perhaps better-known cousin, prosciutto and melon.

Then we had the agnolotti dal plin with sugo d’arrosto.

Agnolotti Dal Plin.

It came to us like a gift from the gods – someone else had ordered it and we dived in just before remembering we hadn’t asked for it. (Honest!) By the time the mistake was discovered, they had already picked up the other guy. Win-win! A very happy accident. The agnolotti were bathed in roast chicken broth (so sugo d’arrosto – “roast juice”), thickened with butter, parmesan and lemon juice. Absolutely delicious. The perfectly al dente agnolotti themselves were light and tasty morsels, and we would never have guessed that the stuffing was a mixture of pork and beef.

Then, the dish we ordered, cacio and pepe:

Cacio and Pepe.

Unfortunately, we both found this dish too salty. The Pecorino Romano was so thick it was more of a sauce but just a little overwhelming. We took most of it back to the doctor for another meal. But the pasta itself was excellent, the peppery bites as invigorating as expected.

Finally, the half chicken al mattone:

Half Chicken Al Mattone

I don’t order chicken very often in restaurants, but the other entree choices were swordfish (see fish-shower BF), lamb (also lamb shower – grrrr) and a $130 steak (hard no), so it was chicken. The steamed chicken roasts in a wood-fired oven under a brick and is sliced ​​on toast, with charred lemon and sweet cipollini.

The leg was perfect – blackened, crispy, salty, oily skin covering succulent, juicy meat, anointed with warmed, caramelized lemon juice. But the breast meat was pretty dry, and of course that’s what the BF hit first. I gave him the last bite of the thigh so he could taste the difference. “Better,” he said. Pfft! It was excellent! But sadly, that’s what I encounter too often with breast meat, and why I don’t usually order it when I go out.

The menu doesn’t seem to change very often, maybe seasonally, but it would be nice if I wanted to go back and try something again right away, and there were definitely dishes we had that fit that description. I would also like to try the laugh i kissmarinated carrots with ricotta saladthe scallop crudo, and the lamb that the BF avoided. The grilled mushrooms with walnuts also sound fabulous, as do the nettle and ricotta ravioli.

Penny Roma’s wine list dwells between Italy, France and California, and also offers a selection of Italian beers and sodas. We tried a funky little Cab Franc from Bergerac, a Sicilian Nero’d’Avola (juicy and astringent – loved it) and a flinty Picpoul which made a lovely finish with the chicken.

Penny Roma feels like one of those neighborhood spots for a special occasion, or because it’s Monday and you don’t feel like cooking, especially with the pasta and wine shop next door. You can stop and sit at the bar, have a glass of wine and a plate of homemade pasta one night, and the next day pick up some fresh pasta to throw in a pot of water and toss with their homemade sugar, munching on their Calabrian salami while waiting. An embarrassment of riches, that’s our neighborhood.

Penny Roma
3000 20th Street
San Francisco CA, 94110


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