Barbacco Eno Trattoria Restaurant Review

Barbacco Eno Trattoria is a casual, friendly, inviting and unpretentious restaurant 

Barbacco Eno Trattoria  Restaurant Review

When I think of a trattoria, I think of the Italian version of a bistro. Casual, friendly, inviting and unpretentious. Maybe with a family vibe. Barbacco was not that. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

This is a glossy, efficient machine designed to extract money while inserting as many people as possible into the restaurant. It is very good at this, and I’m not even going to say that this is a bad place. It’s not – in many ways, it’s really good. However, warm it is not, friendly it sort of is, but in a big city face place kind of way. The food is very good.

But I couldn’t get past the experience itself, which was not really too welcoming. This extended into every facet of my meal. It just wasn’t especially comforting or welcoming, and the glamour and flash of the place didn’t make up for that. I had the sense that the serving staff was managing me, and that their lines, their attitude and their entire presentation was part of a very carefully concocted set of lines. I had fun, but I didn’t feel particularly welcome.

This is terribly unfair, of course. Running a restaurant is brutally difficult, and judging one on such ineffables isn’t really too reasonable of me. Too bad. I didn’t have a good time.

Opening Hours


Monday – Friday- 11:30 AM- 3:00 PM


Monday – Friday- 5:00 PM- 10:00 PM

Saturday- 5:30 PM- 10:00 PM


Monday – Friday- 11 AM- 10 PM

Saturday- 5:30 PM- 10 PM

Sunday- Closed


The Location

Barbacco Eno Trattoria restaurant is in downtown San Francisco, in the financial district right on the California Street cable car line. This is a very expensive, very dense, very crowded part of the city, and there will be zero parking. Therefore, either take BART to the Montgomery Street stop and walk a few blocks, or bring some money, find a parking garage, and walk from there. There will not be any on-street parking anywhere near.

Address: 220 California Street, San Francisco, California 94111

Phone: (415) 955-1919

The Ambiance

Ambiance at Barbacco Eno Trattoria  Restaurant is very industrial, very elegant. I hated it. I’m serious. The entire place is filled with surfaces that are designed to look expensive and classy, which they do, but which are rock-hard, ice-cold, and could not make a diner feel less welcome or comfortable. I’m not sure they didn’t chill everything before I arrived – you know, ice down the counter. This is the Decoration by Darth Vader school of restaurant design. It resembled a gleaming, expensively-designed morgue.

The room is long and narrow, so in order to put as many diners in the place as possible, there are a small number of large, communal tables, and a long marble bar with seats arranged next to each other. You end up staring at a stainless-steel wall about six feet away, in front of which may be a prep cook, who you can entertain yourself by watching. I was spectacularly lucky in that I ate early, got my pick of seats, and so got to sit in front of an enormous, painfully bright television monitor built into the wall that was showing a college basketball game, so at least I had something to look at.

As another consequence of this setup, you are seated elbow-to-elbow with whoever happens to be seated next to you. To be fair, the restaurant’s website does inform of this, so it’s not a surprise, but in actual practice, it’s not much fun. It would be especially tricky to have dinner with someone here – you would spend the entire meal turning your head to one side. In my case, this bar arrangement consisted of a row of female middle manager types from all the office towers in the neighborhood, whose conversations I was forced to listen to. Thank God I got out before the place filled up. Full, I suspect this restaurant has the ambience of an empty water tank the inside of which is being hit with hammers. It’s the exact opposite of cozy.

The Service

Service at Barbacco Eno Trattoria restaurant is fun, smart and knowledgeable. I got into a friendly debate with a server about the grammatical classification of the phrase “will be seated.” I bet on future perfect, but who knows.

The Price

Not bad. Including tip, dinner came to $70.

The Food

Quite good.

The appetizer was seared squid with fennel, chili and lemon. This was served in a small dish with sprigs of dill and a puree of olives. It was great. The olives – a kind of tapenade, really – had a nice acid side effect, and the squid was perfectly done. It was a great little appetizer, although the key word here is “little.” Not much food here.

For an entrée, I chose lamb chops, which were grilled, and served with Barbacco’s version of broccoli rabe. In Philadelphia, where I lived for a long time, broccoli rabe is an old-time staple, which is usually just sautéed in garlic and butter and dished up. This was a little different. It was diced first, then sautéed, along with TK and TK. The result was a nice, earthy and slightly bitter base for the grilled lamb chop. It was also prepared with a healthy dose of olive oil, which coated the entire dish in a sheen of oil. This is a great trick for adding richness to the dish, but it also sort of buries some of the flavor. Please, guys, if you can take it a little easier on the oil.

As a counterweight, I also ordered a side dish of grilled polenta. My daughter Amelia, who I tend to collaborate with on some of these reviews (I text her where I am, and she helps tell me what to order while I eat and she does her homework) refers to polenta as “prison food” and delights in pointing out that it’s basically fried cornmeal mush. She’s got a point. She’s also sixteen.

This version did about as much as you can with fried mush. This was polenta that was grilled, flavored with rosemary, and dusted with parmesan reggiano, which gave it a nice, nutty coating and a nice resonance. The result was pleasant, but also a little bland/boring/uninteresting. They did a lot with it, but in the end, it’s still polenta.

Dessert was a cup of perfect coffee, and an apple sorbet, which was terrific. One simple scoop of grainy, sweet apple-flavored sorbet, which was the ideal dessert. It didn’t overpower me with sugar, or appear as some sort of ultra-complex homage to squirt bottles of syrup. It was simple, elegant, and really good.

I often (in fact usually, these days) review restaurants alone, so ultimately, it wasn’t that big a deal that this place seated me side-by-side with strangers. However, if I brought someone along I wanted to talk to, I would NOT be happy with this place. It’s not about food as a human experience. It’s about food as a luxury good, like an iPod or a pair of expensive shoes. It looks great, but really, it’s just another unfriendly, glossy object, and particularly when eating, I’m not a big fan of that.

Location of Barbacco Eno Trattoria  Restaurant

Location of Barbacco Eno Trattoria Restaurant

Map showing location of Barbacco Eno Trattoria

Website :

Nearby Tourist Attractions–  Ferry Building, Exploratorium

Published On: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017