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Apr 11, 2007 06:14 PM

Best Italian Resturants in SF

My parents are coming to SF this weekend and want Italian. Please recommend your favorites (and somewhere you think we can still get a reservation!). My husband and I just moved to the area.


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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Second that- it's not your typical veal parm type of place so check the menu out, but the quality and creativity are hard to beat.

    2. Ristorante Ideale is great (on grant) and you can still get a reservation.

      1. Don't know about reservations.

        Best are:
        Acquarello (by reputation)

        Probably in that order.

        You can still probably get a reservation at Capannina or Luella. Never been to Incanto.

        6 Replies
        1. re: whiner

          To me, the best Italian places are (in alphabetical order) A16, Antica Trattoria, Incanto, and La Ciccia. Incanto's my favorite and probably the easiest to get into on short notice.

          Luella has some Italian-influenced dishes but it's definitely not an Italian restaurant. They describe themselves as "Mediterranean inspired."

          Acquerello's sort of French-Italian, or at least very heavily French-influenced Italian. It's not so much better as different from first-rate Italian places.

          Delfina's great but while its pastas are very Italian, its entrees are more California.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            You forgot to mention that La Ciccia is Sardinian. If you go there expecting "Italian" you might be a little disappointed (the chef told us that he's frequently has complaints that his food "isn't Italian").

            Again, it cannot be stressed enough that none of these places are "red sauce" Italian/Italian American food, like you'd see on the East Coast and Midwest. Depending on where you and your parents are from, the best Italian in the city may not be what you're looking for.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              A16 and La Ciccia all focus on Italian cuisines of specific regions, but they also have dishes you might find anywhere in Italy. People who complain that the food at La Ciccia isn't Italian have a lot to learn about Italian food.


            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              While I think "pastas Italian, entrees Californian" is a fair summary of those parts of Delfina's menu, I'd add that the appetizers, salads, and sides are predominantly Italian, often to a pretty obscure/authentic degree, at least to my non-expert eye & palate. (Tonight's apps, for example, are grilled sardines w/warm white bean salad; speck w/shaved artichokes & parmigiano; chicken liver spiedini [skewers] w/guanciale & balsalmico; and salt cod montecato w/walnut oil & fennel seed flatbread.) The desserts are of mixed provenance; the wines an even split Cal/Ital; the excellent espresso drinks, very Italian.

              1. re: readingstand

                Very true. I think they go California on the entrees because Italian entrees tend to be plain and simple to a degree that people here don't appreciate. Oliveto has also gone somewhat in that direction since Bertolli left.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  That seems sound, except that the two entrees that are on the menu every single night, out of a total of five, are roast chicken w/mashed potatoes & mushrooms, and steak w/frites--both pretty plain & simple (and the latter more French bistro than Californian). Stoll told the Chron some years ago how he didn't mean those two to be permanent, but had them on when they opened and would face an uproar if he ever removed them. I think that it's each night's two fish entrees that tend to the Californian. The final entree, usually pork or duck or rabbit or the like, is usually pretty Italian in style.

          2. One of my favorites is still Venticello up in Nob Hill. It's on the corner of Washington and Taylor. Great friendly staff and cozy interior. They have great gnocchi!

            2 Replies
            1. re: shnigglebob

              I have to agree. My husband and I are in SF once a year for only a few days and Venticello is a definite stop. We regularly entertain a group there, and no one has been disappointed yet.

              1. re: wandasue

                I've been to Venticello several times because my friends like it. I like it too, but I can't say I'm crazy about it. Good, but I think what they are doing at several other Italian restaurants in town blows itaway. (The same could be said about Milano.)

            2. Three other worth considering are:

              Perbacco (230 California St.) - featuring the foods of the Piemonte and Ligurian regions of Italian. A little on the expensive side.

              Milano (1448 Pacific) - A more casual, trattoria-style place. The food is more Tuscan-Roman.

              Antica Trattoria (2400 Polk St.) - Similar to Milano.

              Be aware that San Francisco does not have much of the red-sauce/garlic Italian food traditionally found in much of the northeast U.S.