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Jan 11, 2006 06:23 PM

Best Italian restaurants in SF -

  • m

fairly new the area. From New York so im not easily impressed - lets hear it

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  1. I have a craving for a really good italian calamari dish. any suggestions -

    2 Replies
    1. re: mnyess

      I like the grilled calamari salad and Delfina. Really nice char, served with white beans. I would definately add it to your list of Italian spots to check out. I would also add Quince and Antica Trattoria.

      1. re: mnyess

        I always find myself torn between the pasta with broccoli and the pasta with calamare at Tommaso's (Kearny below Broadway, North Beach).

      2. Oliveto is outside of SF, but walking distance from the Rockridge BART. It's impressive because the pasta, salami, and polenta are all made on site and incredible. Grilled meats are slow-cooked in a wood oven, service is great, ambience is relaxed but formal (casual but well dressed customers, white tablecloths, wooden wine cupboards, low lighting, the glow of the oven if you're sitting on that side of the room).

        Photos and detailed descriptions from my meal are linked below


          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            That is exactly how I would rank them also.

            1. re: Aaron
              Robert Lauriston

              Also worth mention are Delfina, which has some hardcore Italian dishes and some more California stuff, and Aquerello, which to my palette is quite Frenchified, but you can't beat the $100 five-course prix fixe (menu degustazione) with wine pairing and refills.


            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              Antica Trattoria?

              I have been there twice (once last summer and once probably in spring 2002) and was not impressed either time. I don't know if I just set my expectations too high or ordered the wrong thing or was in on an off night (or two). What is the draw, specific dishes?

              About ten years ago I spent six months in Tuscany just south of Arrezzo and had some fabulous meals in trattoria that still bring back mouth watering memories. I expected this from Antica, but I came away disapointed.

              I am willing to try it again, mainly due to the raves on this board. Any suggestions?

              1. re: tylerk

                I agree with you, with the caveat that I probably should give it another chance. It's been over a year and half since I first went and I've never wanted to return. I had high expectations that weren't met at the time either. Maybe I misordered? Don't know what the fuss was about. I could use some recommendations for dishes as well.

                1. re: tylerk

                  While there are some good Italian restaurants here, nothing really compares to the restaurants in Italy. Ditto for French restaurants here and France and especially for what passes for tapas here and the wonderful creations in Spain. So I think that your comparison is not exactly fair.

                  That being said, my Italian expat friends all say that Restaurante Milano and Ideale are the most 'authentic' but I don't know if they are speaking to the food or the overall experience.

                  1. re: george

                    I certainly hope you're not referring to Restaurante Milano on Grand Ave. I had the worst service there and the food was unimpressive.

                    1. re: theSauce

                      No - in SF on Pacific.

                  2. re: tylerk

                    I also like Ristorante Milano at Pacific/Larkin. They really just seem to want to see you happily fed. So I got no attitude when I asked them to leave off the basil on my mozz/tomato app. I think it is a bargain for the quality.

                    I went to Antica when it first opened and liked it just fine. My bf didn't though so we never went back.

                    He much prefers Frascati, which is really Italian/Californian/fusion [Hyde/Green] and pricy.

                    Amerena at Larkin/Green is Roman. I looked at the menu yesterday and they had wild boar chops.

                    Opinions on Cappinnina on Union?

                    I've gotten raspberries for recommending Il Fornaio in Levi Plaza. I just realized that I've only eaten brunch there, lovely on the outdoor patio. Freshly squeezed green apple juice.

                    1. re: semmel
                      Robert Lauriston

                      Antica Trattoria reminds me a lot of some places I went to in northern Italy. The owner's from Bergamo. His other place, Pesce, is also great.

                      Capannina is good.

                      1. re: semmel

                        Can't wait to try Restarante Milano, but we really didn't care for Amareno. Everything we tasted was very uninspired, and the room seem half decorated. Staff was very eager to please though.

                  3. If you are looking for the Southern Italian/Neapolitan/Sicilian based food (heavy on the tomato sauce and garlic) that is so common in the NYC area (think Rao's), you are liable to be disappointed here. Most of the Italians who settled in the SF Bay Area were/are from Central/Northern Italy (Rome to the north) and the Italian restaurants here reflect that.

                    A16 is a restaurant the specializes in the food of Campania. They try to keep the food their very authentic and not let it become Italian-Americanized.

                    Please be sure to post your opinions of the various places you try here. It is always interesting to read what a newcomer thinks.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: DavidT
                      Robert Lauriston

                      Most of the Italian immigrants to SF were from Liguria, so that was a heavy influence on the old-school North Beach cuisine. Which is not so easy to find any more.

                      However, a lot of current Italian restaurants are run by recent immigrants from all over Italy. And the chefs at Oliveto, A16, and Pizzaiolo aren't even Italian.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        For a good take on Ligurian food, try Rose Pistola on Columbus. Cook book author Peggy Knickerbocker champions this place and for good reason. I'm especially fond of the "bricked" chicken and the seafood. The vegetables and hot and cold appetizers are good, the few pasta dishes are decent but pasta is meant for the home and should therefore be avoided (my philosophy, take it or leave it).

                        1. re: Z. Williams
                          Robert Lauriston

                          Rose Pistola is really good and has a great wine list with some really unusual bottles. If it were less expensive I'd eat there all the time. I love the marinated fish, farinata (socca), pasta with seafood sauce, and whole roast fish. Have yet to try the pizza since I always order the farinata.

                          It's one of the better values on the DAT promotion.

                    2. d

                      I am italian, and I since I moved to California 9 years ago I noticed that the best and most authentic italian food is served in restaurants run by american chefs. Many of these chefs get their training in american culinary schools and in Italy. In San Francisco this means Delfina, Oliveto and Quince. Take Pazzia: their pizza is mediocre at best compared to A16 or Pizzaiolo. And for some reason that I'm still missing, italian restaurants owned and run by italian chefs in New York serve more authentic food than italian owned restaurants here. Ideale definetely serves the most authentic italian dishes in SF.