Rigolo Cafe Turns Riviera SF
Couldn’t make it to the French Riviera this holiday season… snow in Europe, flight delays, all that. Good that Rigolo Café in Laurel Village neighborhood paired with Taste TV to create a limited-edition pop-up dining experience aptly named Riviera San Francisco.
Last Saturday, Doug Mathieux, owner, and Jeff Gambardella, executive chef of petit cafe amusant got busy creating a full-service white-table-cloth candle-lit dinner inspired by the South of France and Barcelona. Taste TV, famous for its abundance of fresh culinary ideas, was on the scene, hosting and filming…
The atmosphere of Rigolo Café – casual, playful, and kid-friendly, was transformed into intimately upscale with a help of a curtain separating a small fine-dining area from the rest of the facility.
The menu underwent a major transformation as well, changing from daytime grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, and mac’n’cheese (however delicious) to scrumptious houte cuisine dishes embellished with black truffle, Dungeness crab, and pink peppercorn.
All three courses were paired with very well-selected French and California wines. What remained unchanged, were Rigolo Café’s smiley service, French music playing in the background, and an affordable price. Just like in any place on the Riviera, or in any French restaurant in San Francisco, the pop-up dining experience started with an amuse bouche – duck liver pate on toasted brioche with a shaving of black truffle.
The first course presented a choice of roasted fennel soup with crab meat; pan-seared scallop with black truffle and wild mushroom ragu; and Salad Lyonnaise – frisee, bacon lardoons, Petaluma Farms Poached Organic Egg, and walnut vinaigrette topped with black truffles.
My delicious soup (couldn’t believe it wasn’t butter) was paired with Petit Bistro Pinot Noir from France, and my dining companion’s Lyonnaise – with exceptionally delicious Vintner’s Bland cab from Ravenswood.
Second course choices were: local halibut, pan-seared and served over artichoke heart risotto and garnished with Bolinas Dungeness crab salad; duck L’Orange (Petaluma Farms duck breast and confit leg), with Button Willow mandarins, Coke Farms baby beets, and rainbow swiss chard; and Snake River Farms Kobe-style beef sirloin with chanterelle mushroom ragout, fingerling potatoes and pink peppercorn bourbon sauce.
My exceedingly pleasing sirloin, nicely touched with the heavenly sauce, was paired with my favorite Philippe de Rothschild’s Mouton Cadet from Bordeaux, and my dining companion’s tender and crispy-skinned duck – with excellent Shenandoah Special Reserve zin – so enticing, we engaged in a little fight over who’s gonna finish up the pour.
Desserts, sweetly paired with Sandeman Founders Reserve port, were warm chocolate fallen cake with vanilla chantilly cream (can’t go wrong!) and Greek yogurt panna cotta splashed with aged fig balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds – light and satisfying.
By the end of the evening, all the guests felt like they’d just been to the Riviera, and the hosts were most likely tired, yet cheerful, smiling, and accommodating. Let’s hope that the pop-up dining experience was as good for them as it was for us, and that Riviera San Francisco dinners will continue, even if by any other name – at Rigolo Café.
Located at 3465 California St., San Francisco, CA 94118
Open Mon-Sat. 7:30am – 8:30pm
Sunday 7:30am – 4:00pm
Call 1-415-876-7777 or visit their website