The tiny little Bistro Florio on Fillmore Street at Bush has been serving up unpretentious food on ugly plateware for eight years, and it couldn't be better. Beloved by Pacific Heights locals (like the CEO of Visa and the owner of the Forty-Niners)and visitors (Mick Jagger and Sharon Stone always stop in when they're in town) alike, Florio manages to consistently get everything right.
I dined with two girlfriends in the window table, and was warmly welcomed by the staff, including owner Doug Biederbeck (who also runs Bix and the MarketBar). We began our meal with martinis, of course (two dirty Ketel Ones for them, for me a French Blush: Grey Goose vodka shaken with Chambourd and served with a twist), a small bowl of mixed marinated olives (with some beans and garlic floating around in there) and a plate of chicken-liver crostini. A little too much liver and not enough crostini, but the braided sourdough that is delivered directly on the tablecloth (hey, it's a Bistro! they don't mess around with bread baskets)helped.
A grilled asparagus salad, resplendent with aioli and extra-virgin olive oil came next, as did an ooey-gooey artichoke and egg dish, cooked over the open stove flame in a cassoulet dish. Both were good, and true to what seems to be the Florio credo: fresh food, prepared unassumingly and with skill.
A pasta course followed; ricotta stuffed pansoti and garganelli, which I especially liked. The hand-rolled and -folded pasta was complemented by plain brown shell beans, fennel, and shrimp. No sauce, none needed.
Mains were steak, steak, and more steak. I ordered the bavette and my two friends shared the steak for two; a gigantic piece of ribeye; both served with pommes frites, the ribeye with a side of spinach. Both steaks were disappointingly cold, perhaps they'd been sitting in the window as we finished our pasta course. The bernaise sauce that accompanied the meat was no bueno either, much too sweet and overly-cardamomed. But I've had the steak frites before (it is, after all, what Florio is known for) so I knew this must've been a fluke.
Service was friendly and attentive; we especially admired the busser, who appeared with a steak knife nanoseconds after I dropped mine on the floor.