DeLessio Is More

Finding summer in the city at a delicious off-the-radar bakery

God, I love summer in San Francisco. Shivering in head-to-toe fleece with a lukewarm cup of coffee as giant gusts of icy, garbage-laden mist lash me like a wet bullwhip, blowing my car door shut with the keys locked inside. It really doesn't get much better than that. I weep to think of the poor souls in Walnut Creek lying by their pools, sipping cool drinks in the hot sun while the smoke from their neighbors' steak barbecue wafts over the fence. How tanned and miserable they must be with their lemonade stands and lawn sprinklers. How despairing they must feel every time they head to a concert on the grass in their shorts and flip-flops.

It's no secret to anyone who's known me that I detest the fog. I loathe it like Tom Cruise loathes anti-depressants. I am verbally (and occasionally physically) abusive to people who say how refreshing it is and how they wish it was foggy all year round. And don't give me, "You'd change your mind if you had to live through summer in Chicago or Washington, D.C.," because I've been there, done that, and as sweaty as the summers can get back there, I'd trade 50 days of fog for just one tank-top-wearing, warm summer night. (Granted, I wouldn't trade a single day of fog for the month of February, but that's, um, different.)

Anyway, since I'm not rich enough to own a house in the wine country, I've learned to approximate the summertime experience by stocking up on the trappings of the season. Sometimes, for instance, I put out the wading pool on my deck and fill it with warm water, then sit and soak my feet while drinking a fresh, very strong margarita (the very strong part is required for the suspension of disbelief). And I treat myself to lunch at DeLessio Market & Bakery (1695 Market, 552-5559, www.delessiomarket.com).

An off-the-radar spot in the unassigned area between the Castro and Hayes Valley, DeLessio looks and feels like a tropical fish out of water. The cheery red-and-yellow building is fronted by a plexiglass-enclosed patio where metrosexuals perpetuate the illusion of summer with YSL sunglasses and salon tans. Inside, it's a smorgasbord right out of my perfect seasonal picnic basket: platters of rosemary-flecked roast chicken and brined pork loin; enormous salami and roast beef sandwiches on house-made focaccia; gooey frittatas with ham, spinach, and Cotswold cheese; and a huge array of unusual European-style salads and side dishes -- roasted yams with ginger and molasses, grilled balsamic zucchini, curried fennel with olives. The antipasti bar alone is worth the trip: huge bowls of imported olives, cornichons, peppers, and fresh nuts roasted in grapeseed oil and French sea salt. The kicker for me is the Asian-style barbecued pork ribs. Basted in a slightly sweet, sticky soy glaze with just the right amount of smoke and spice, they're slow-cooked till the meat practically falls off the bone. Every lip-smackin', finger-lickin' bite feels like a shot from one of those photon sun lamps.

I have to admit I gild the lily by first making a stop across the street at Yum, the gourmet grocer, for an original-recipe (made with cane sugar) Dr Pepper in a short glass bottle.

Then I close my eyes, tip my head back, and savor the fantasy before a blast of arctic fog gives me an inadvertent side of my neighbor's pasta salad. Mmm ... tastes like summer.

 
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