I really appreciate seeing aggressive, ambitious projects downtown, whether it's a fancy new restaurant, the Rincon Towers project, the new Moscone Center, or anything else. Downtown needs a constant influx of investment and innovation to stay vibrant and relevant. As San Franciscans, we've been generally lucky in this regard. In particular, I also appreciate when a worn-out, has-been restaurant with a great location gets a full face-lift and new life.
Perbacco, the now-year-old Italian that took the place of the old Gold Dust next to Tadich Grill, fits this mold, and thus I'm glad it's there and open. However, the follow-through of the restaurant itself doesn't quite live up to the promise and appearance. While it remains an interesting spot to try, flaws with the food, service and pricing make it a place one would have a hard time rushing back to.
The interior is wonderful. A long bar at the front is very inviting, with a brick backdrop, the now-stylish downward-slanted mirrors and great lighting. The scene is active and vibrant. Behind it and above is a two-level dining room that's also very well-lit and the tables are the perfect distance apart for creating a comfortable dining experience while keeping the feel active enough to be fun and potentially even a bit rowdy. Whoever designed this place had a clear vision, looked at every detail, and made few mistakes.
The same eye for detail doesn't quite get to the staff however. They seem somewhat disorganized, forgetting either us or our orders a few times over the course of our three visits. One time we were seated upstairs with only two other parties around (boring compared to the downstairs) and it was clear that they forgot we were there and didn't assign anyone to us. That made me feel really big and important. When ordering wine from their expensive and expansive wine list, the sommelier was less than interested in finding us some fun, interesting value in the $40-$70 range, presumably because the price point wasn't worth his time. I'm sure he's very knowledgeable given the large list and what others have said, but I prefer talking to someone who's simply excited about wine and what they've put on the list and shows it without pretension.
The food is good but not great. In all three visits, I was much more excited about the appetizers and first courses rather than the entrees. The house-cured salami is a definite highlight, and I'm not the only one who noticed, apparently. The entrees were acceptable but uninspired. My overall reaction to the food was that everything (except the salami) could've been a notch or two better, and that the prices are about 20% too high as a result. The pasta is not quite a fresh or flavorful as you'd hope for. The meats not quite so skillfully prepared as you'd expect for the prices.
So given all this, my final recommendation is that it's worth an exploratory visit, but you might want to stick to drinks and appetizers at the bar to start. Given other viewpoints I've seen, I may be in the minority. I love the overall effort to do something so ambitious downtown, but the ambition doesn't quite meet the final delivery for me.