[San Francisco, Tenderloin] Dispensa Italian Charcoal Kitchen

Dispensa’s claim to fame is their charcoal oven. They say they are the only Italian restaurant in the US to use such an oven as the main cooking vessel in the kitchen. The open kitchen is right next to the dining room, but there isn’t the usual hustle and cooking sound around the kitchen as most of the cooking is done in the oven itself.

There is a variety of charcoal, including the oak that they use for most of their cooking, that one can spot around the kitchen. i also saw a bag of black binchotan, which he said is used sometime. He said white binchotan, which is used in good izakayas, are too expensive at $150 a bag.

The meal was very pleasant. The flavors were very restrained. All the flavors were ‘just enough’, including very measured use of salt.

Folpo aea Griglia/ slow cooked octopus. The octopus was good and was the favorite of the table that evening. Slow cooked for a day, its very tender and had a noted olive-caper flavor profile.

The anchovy with Stracciatella di Burrata was pleasant as well, with the salty anchovy contrasted very well with the fresh and light stracciatella. Also got a bit of capers in the dish.

Grilled pork chop with zucchini. The pork chop was moist and tender. Though oddly I thought the zucchini was charcoal grilled more flavorful than the pork chop. The pork chop and the herb salt sprinkled on the plate played well together.

Sides of potatoes and pinsa. They were fine.

Overall, a pleasant meal in a pleasant dining room. I’d like to come back and try the calamari stew, and see how it compares with La Ciccia’s.

The Venice-born chef/ owner is working a bit more of the hospitality side of the house and the cooking is done by the staff. Very welcoming staff.

Located a couple of blocks from Market in the Tenderloin, the restaurant seems to get a number of well-dressed patrons having a pre-theater (or maybe opera) meal. That and the airy dining room creates a bit of contrast with the tougher surroundings outside.

Charcoal oven:

Black binchotan. Not pictured, oak charcoal.

Menu and wine lists:


Dining room:


Nice review. Terrific photos.