Of Boar and Barolo: Contrada Brings Italian Cuisine to Cow Hollow

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Wild boar ragu
Wild boar ragu

Photo Credit: Mike Norquist

When Dena Grunt and Mick Suverkrubbe tried looking for a chef to helm their new Union Street restaurant, Contrada, they were at a loss. They tasted plenty of delicious pastas, but nothing that took them back to Tuscany—Siena, specifically, which lies south of Florence and is the storied original locus of the Romeo and Juliet fable.

Chef Tuley shaves truffles onto steak
Chef Tuley shaves truffles onto steak

Photo Credit: Mike Norquist

Enter seasoned chef Jason Tuley, formerly of Picco, in Larkspur. After the first bite of his farrow-juniper campanelle with Barolo-braised wild boar sugo (gravy), they knew they had found their man. It seemed like destiny—the duo had not told the chef they wanted boar on the menu at their new Marina District eatery, yet here it was. Why boar? Because during a culinary research trip to Tuscany, one of their most memorable meals, a dish they adored, was housemade pasta with wild boar sugo. In a fortuitous turn of events, Tuley happened to have wild boar in his freezer. Since he had spent years cooking in Italy, he knew wild boar sugo was popular in the Siena region, so he prepared it for the owners and added his own touch—pecorino and rosemary. Tuley was quickly named chef, and the sensational pasta he made that day is now on the menu at the recently opened Contrada.

The main dining room
The main dining room

Photo Credit: Mike Norquist

Warming, rustic dishes like this are not the only draw here. There’s also the welcoming decor by the Rachel Simone Design Studio, which gave the long rectangular space a beautiful wooden bar on one side and banquette seating on the other. Light fixtures have the look of upside down candles, and one wall is covered in an artistic Jenga-like design. The ample back patio with outdoor seating, courtyard, and fire pits will definitely be a haute spot once the weather warms up.

The spacious back patio
The spacious back patio

Photo Credit: Mike Norquist

Visitors to Contrada can, of course, expect plenty of Tuley specialty dishes, such as his light, crisp deep-fried baccalá (dried salted cod) fritters with a lovely salsa verde–like gribiche and a fresh arugula and radish salad; sensational wood-fired pizza topped with artisanal charcuterie and local cheese; and pillowy potato gnocchi in a slightly spicy nduja (spreadable salami) sauce with sweet, heirloom broccoli di ciccio and Parmesan. If you can’t decide what to order, you’re not alone. Everything, from the kampachi crudo to the lamb belly stracotto (pot roast), sounds delicious. With a menu driven by the seasons and fresh local delicacies, Contrada is sure to become a favorite of Italophiles—or anyone who appreciates well-conceived, well-prepared Mediterranean fare.

The bar
The bar

Photo Credit: Mike Norquist

As for drinks, wine consultant Shawndra McCrorey has curated an extensive list of sustainable vino, including 16 California wines, most made with Italian varietals. There are 20 types of beer and low-alcohol Italian-inspired cocktails. A spritzy riff on the classic negroni is fruity, light, and the ideal way to whet your appetite. So go ahead. And saluti!

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