Everything about Bar Bambino (2931 16th St.; 701-8466, www.barbambino.com) is carefully rustic. In the restaurant’s front window, a rough-hewn community table seats 10 and a soft white Italian marble bar reaches all the way back to an open section of the kitchen, displaying cheeses and charcuterie. A few scattered indoor tables give way to a quiet, heated outdoor patio. The menu shows owner Christopher Losa’s love for northern Italy, where he lived for several years: the food is simple, traditional Italian, like the polpetti, pork-and-veal meatballs in a rich tomato sauce with dark chard. There’s nothing superfluous on the plates (order some sides for that), and the dishes are affordable. “I’m all about gastronomic progression, but how many times a week can you eat peppered sardines in cilantro foam?” laughs Losa. “Sometimes you just want a plate of really good pasta.” The highly polished Italian wine list offsets Bar Bambino’s simple food.
But really, if you want great simple Italian food, Little Joe’s (not “Original Joe’s” or any of the others), which used to be on Broadway, then Van Ness, but now located somewhere south of Market has the best marina sauce over raviolis anywhere. I wrote about it a year ago. My opinion hasn’t changed.