Caffé Delle Stelle

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Many of my friends know that I am on the continual hunt for the budget $10 lunch. I like those lunches that are either so filling that a modest dinner is all that is needed or one that is so ample as to provide left-overs for a supper snack. When a friend recently came to town and ended up in Hayes Valley, I advised her to pick some place that looked good for her for lunch and that I would join her. I admit that Cafee Della Stella had never attracted much attention as it lies across the street from the far more desirable (and expensive) Absinthe. And the fact that during the day, it is mostly empty.

But they had a sign out front that they had been open for twenty years and there was an economy lunch, so I didn’t mind too much. Besides, I was here to see an old friend and ended up being fairly surprised — not overwhelmed — but reasonably satisfied. While we perused the menu, a bread offering was presented; an herb-topped focaccia and classic Italian roll with a spicy, red pepper dipping sauce. The bread was probably day old at that point, but having two different kinds with an accompaniment (instead of butter or oil) was nice. Rose and I agreed to stick to the $10 menu which included a dozen different choices of mostly pastas, but a few sandwiches, larger salads, and a pizza. The pasta dishes came with a side of green salad or cup of soup.

Both of us were craving pasta and knowing we would be sharing, decided on a pappardale with fennel sausage Bolognese and an orecchiette with ground veal, herbs, and tomato cream sauce. The salad was simple and fresh – just lightly dressed greens and no extra frills or accompaniments. The day’s soup was minestrone and while flavorful, was mostly just a fairly thin broth and lacked any of the expected ingredients of beans, pasta, or hefty vegetables. Granted, there were some vegetables, but they were finely diced and far from substantial.

The pasta servings were larger than expected and not that bad. The pappardale was relatively thick had a nice tooth and the fennel sausage was surprisingly spicy and rich. Stuck-together orecchiette cradled thick, creamy veal-laden sauce. Both proved richer and a higher quality and larger portions than I was expecting for the price. Left-overs of both pastas were brought home and enjoyed later that evening. We both opted for glasses of wine which drove the price of our budget lunch higher than we should have spent, but I would not hesitate to return and refrain from the alcohol, keeping to the table-served bottled water.

395 Hayes St
(between Franklin St & Gough St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 252-1110

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