I’d caught glimpses of Itria, hidden in plain sight on 24th Street, just up the street from BART, in the old Obispo site. With its plain white-tile exterior and the buses rumbling by, it was easy to miss. Inside, it’s as dark as a cool cave until you pass the bar, where the ceiling rises and the kitchen pass-through emits a golden light onto that portion of the dining room, splashing over the light gray walls, honey-toned woods, and a communal table. There’s a light elegance in its rusticity.
Chef Daniel Evers, formerly of Al’s Place and Cotogna, opened Itria in May of 2021. After spending most of the pandemic serving delivery pizza to go, it opened for indoor dining in August of that year and changed the menu entirely. Billed as modern Italian, Itria has a rotating list of crudos to start and, true to the chef’s lineage, homemade fresh pasta, with some varieties that I hadn’t ever heard of.
My sister and I started out with a small sampler of three crudos: The Miyagi oyster with garlic scape, celery and tomato vinegar; Hokkaido scallops, preserved lemon, and sea beans; and the bluefin tuna tartare with smoked leek, hazelnut, and egg yolk.
Each as lovely as a jewel. While the oyster was our least favorite (shocking, but it needed some acid), the stand-out by far was the tuna tartare, which was astoundingly good, smoky and creamy. My sister’s eyes rolled into the back of her head.
Next: Asparagus with poached egg, crispy focaccia and bottarga.
A delight of textures and favors: The creaminess of the egg blending with the freshness of the asparagus, offset by bright notes of lemon zest, briny sweetness of the bottarga, and that crackly toasted focaccia.
For pasta, my sister got the casoncelli; here, a pasta stuffed with herbed ricotta, in a green garlic pesto topped with pistachios.
As beautifully vibrant tasting and herbaceous as it looked, she loved hers better than mine, and I liked mine just a little bit more.
Mine being the triangoli, triangle pasta stuffed with a silky puree of potato, sauced with a rich garlic confit, and topped with crunchy mollica (toasted breadcrumbs; aka, the poor man’s grated cheese) alla cucina povera.
For dessert, we split the creme fraiche panna cotta with huckleberry and ameretti.
Perhaps the silkiest panna cotta I’ve ever had, and not too sweet, despite the huckleberry jelly, evocative of your favorite fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt, in the very best sense, with a fine crunch from the ameretti crumbled on top. We both swooned a bit at this dessert.
We each had bubbles to start, I had a super dry Spanish white with dinner, and finished with a digestif, Mommenpop Seville Orange, a blend of amaro and vermouth.
During the pandemic, I’ve been mostly limiting my reviews to one visit per place, but I really felt Itria needed a second shot. Needed. As in, I needed to eat there again. We even braved eating indoors again.
On our second visit, we again started out with the crudo trio, but tried the two we hadn’t had last time (and the tuna tartare again, because we loved it so much).
We tried the yellowtail amberjack in saor (a sweet/and sour preparation), sunflower puree, and calabrian chile oil. Light, delicate, with a slight tang and the surprising delicate nuttiness of the puree. The local trout in a pea vinaigrette with rhubarb and cucumber was fresh and lively, with a touch of sweetness from the fruit. I’d get both of these again (and they ended up giving us the scallops again instead of the albacore, with absolutely no complaints from us.)
We next shared the burrata with snap peas, puffed farro and chili oil.
Milky freshness, with the crunchy puffed farro and the leafy watercress providing a fun, savory texture. At first, I wished that I’d ordered some of their house-made focaccia we saw at others’ tables to have with this, but in the end I was glad, because I would have filled up too much. This was a perfectly fulfilling dish all on its own.
This time, we split just one pasta.
Gilded with porcini butter, these lovely twists of perfectly al dente pasta were buttressed by fresh, chubby, asparagus and the earthiness of lamb’s quarters, a leafy green.
The reason we had only one pasta was to split the fish.
For a moment, we were slightly disappointed that this wasn’t the whole branzino the menu promised from our first visit (and it’s still on the online menu), but those thoughts disappeared at the first bite of the charred, tender, utterly moist striped bass. Just gorgeous, scattered with pea shoots and nutty braised artichokes, in what tasted like a lick-the-plate-clean dreamy beurre blanc.
And oh yes, we got the huckleberry panna cotta again.
The wine list runs the gamut, including California, French and Italian, and a flirtation with Japan in the form of a nice selection of sakes. I’d love to go back and try the pork belly starter, the diavolo fried chicken, the spaghetti alla vongole, and that pillowy focaccia I kept lusting over. And looking forward to seeing how the menu changes over time.
It seems we can have nice things!
3266 24th St.