Dispensa Restaurant | Feature
By Taya Varnichpun
Published Sep 2018
No stove, no problem. Italian flavors meet the freshest California ingredients at Dispensa. Located on the outskirts of the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, the restaurant, whose name means “pantry” in Italian, has no gas or electric stove. Instead, chef owner Michele Bevilacqua, who hails from Venice, Italy uses an eco-friendly indoor charcoal burning oven -- the first of its kind in the country. Chef Michele is attentive to the details that make up Dispensa. The bright, minimalist decor of the restaurant is juxtaposed with the thick, solid wood tables, handcrafted by the chef himself. That level of attention is also felt in the small but mighty menu of dishes boasting Italian flavors with the farm-to-table concept born and bred in San Francisco. Dispensa’s friendly staff also makes you feel right at home. The sommelier, with her thick Italian accent is knowledgeable about their all-Italian wine list. The servers are friendly and they make the conversation flow—as if you’re sitting in your family’s kitchen, breaking bread with your most beloved friends and family members. And speaking of bread, Dispensa’s pinsa bread is not to be missed. An ancient Roman bread that’s slowly making its way back onto modern menus: it’s a small round loaf, baked in a charcoal oven. Crispy on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside, it’s perfect when eaten the traditional Italian—way dipped in olive oil, or with their spicy Monterey calamari stew. The menu features locally sourced meats and produce throughout, and as the server cheekily commented: a kale salad, “because it’s required in California.” The cornish game hen elevates poultry to another level; being perfectly cooked, juicy and flavorful with every bite, making you forget that an actual stove does not exist here. We’re reminded of the sustainable charcoal oven in the smokiness that can truly be tasted in the pork chop and ribeye steak, as with the roasted cauliflower. Chef Michele draws attention to the real flavors of Italian cooking -- Dispensa sets aside the pizza and pasta most associated with Italian food to spotlight the rich, tangy and hearty dishes of what you’d find in an Italian home. Tucked neatly behind the Warfield in a cozy space in the Tenderloin, this pantry is a bright addition to the neighborhood that brings some TLC into the TL.