Tusk advises that you start an evening at Cotogna with a plate of prosciutto served with Hamada Farm Adriatic and Mission figs, red sorrel, and white peaches. "I picked up the figs and peaches on Saturday; we have Ferry Plaza market just down the street. I tasted them, and I liked them, and just wanted that immediacy of flavor. The red ribbon sorrel makes it a bit more special, and it's dressed lightly so the natural flavors of the fruit come out, just moscato vingar, shallots, and olive oil that contrasts the super-sweet figs."
Squash Blossom Fritto ($14)
"Squash blossoms are one of my favorite items to work with—any way, shape, or form," says Chef Tusk. "I just love them." Here the blossoms are stuffed with homemade ricotta, plus parmesan and Di Stefano burrata, and sometimes some young goat cheese for added flavor. They're dipped in a rice flour batter and served with zucchini ribbons, halved sungold tomatoes, and basil. "In the last 10 years there has been such an abundance of incredible new local cheesemakers" remarks Tusk, "and I try to show them off. If I can turn people onto cheeses by cooking with them, that's great."
Truffle and Corn Pizza ($17)
Three different pizzas are available daily. This one was topped with pop-in-your-mouth corn and burrata, black truffle, and chive, and charred a wood oven heated with thin-cut almond and oak wood. "We try to have fun, and keep the toppings diverse," says Tusk.
This dish was on the original Quince menu, and Tusk brought it over to Cotogna when the more casual restaurant opened. "I had a dish like this at my first-ever truffle dinner in Italy. We pulled up to the restaurant, and walked down the road, and you could smell the truffles from a quarter mile away. Our first dish was a raviolo like this, but in a brodo, and the egg just exploded when you cut open the pasta. Somehow I lost the menu with all the details, and I always save menus...Guess I'll have to go back," says Chef Tusk.
The Cotogna version is filled with housemade ricotta, cut with a bit of parmesan and sometimes a little spinach. "You make a nest in the ricotta and crack the egg yolk in it, and then carefully drape the second piece of pasta on top. We don't boil the pasta," says Tusk. "Instead we kind of poach it so the egg yolk stays runny." This dish inspires such devotion that a kitchen intern from the culinary institute at Greystone actually got a tattoo of it on his leg.
Plum Crostata ($8)
This dessert, topped with creme fraiche ice cream, was inspired by the intensely flavorful, concentrated Loretta plums from Guru Ram Dass Orchards about 75 miles northeast of San Francisco. "I'm much more of a savory guy, but I love fruit, and I love finding great fruit," comments Tusk.