Any GREAT Italian Food in SF?
I thought SF would have tons of great Italian restaurants -- so far been incredibly disappointed by the popular Rose Pistola, Osteria del Forno was above average, as was Fino on Post. Have yet to try Delfina. Any other places?
For top shelf Italian in SF, Pane e Vino (Steiner @ Union). I also second the vote for Oliveto in Oakland/Rockridge, just take BART.
However, there are a ton of neighborhood places in SF for your bread & butter eating. Two of our favorites are Franchino in North Beach and Mescolanza on Clement in the Richmond. Both make great gnocchi,. It's hard to find a bad bowl of pasta in San Francisco!
I agree that L'Osteria del Forno is above average, but I thought that it was a great bargain for the price. I've been to Delfina twice and loved it both times. The food is fantastic - try the grilled calamari salad - and inexpensive for the quality (most expensive entree when I was there - $16!). The only minus is that it's rather loud and trendy though and hard to get in.
Here's some of the Italian places that I liked (only been to each of them once though):
Bella on Geary and 3rd Ave - great cinghiale (wild boar), very hospitable service (owners are from Naples) and the kitchen has a tendency to send out free dessert. Bonus - out of the way and less crowded than many other places.
La Villa Poppi (22nd and Mission) - excellent Tuscan-inspired food (I loved the rabbit and snapper dishes I had there once), dessert was so-so, prix-fixe only with 1-3 options per course (up to 5 courses), intimate and quiet. Tiny place - seats about 20.
Albona (Francisco and Taylor) - food from the Istrian penninsula (used to be part of Italy) - think of it as a cross between Italian and Hungarian cuisines, delicious fried gnnocchi, stuffed calamari, rabbit, risotto.
Locanda San Pietro (18th and Clement) - good food, excellent wine service (they decant bottles into wide-based decanters before serving), exceptional service. Can be quiet and out of the way, but I was there on a weekday.
Other places on my list that I haven't been to but want to try (love to hear someone's opiinion about them):
Antica Trattoria (Russiann Hill)
Pane e Vino (Cow Hollow)
Laghi (near Japantown)
re: Melanie Wong
Via Vai is nothing compared to Pane e Vino in my eyes - much more of a cookie cutter operation. Why go to the weak sister when the real one is just a few blocks away??
Baraonda (I think they recently changed the name but not ownership) is actually a little more upscale than Bella. More wild game and less family style cooking then Bella, plus a better wine list. I actually like Baraonda (or whatever it is now) a little bit better, but the parking is atrocious which is a huge annoyance.
Acquerello. IMO, nothing comes even close. This is not "neighborhood", trattoria-style cuisine. This is haute cuisine, on the order of Charles, La Folie, etc. (yes, those are French, but there aren't any Italian restaurants in that class in SF).
For more neighborhood style places, I've had excellent meals at Laghi and Bella Trattoria.