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Please help my Italian parents eat in San Fran tomorrow

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My parents are in San Francisco for the first time. They live on the East Coast, but are originally from Italy, so they are really picky about food. They are loving San Fran and the wine country, but my father told me today that they haven't had a good meal yet. Shame on me for not consulting chowhound before their trip. Being a NYer, I'm sure San Franciscans would agree that it's a travesty when someone visits our cities which are chock full of culinary genius and get stuck with mediocre food. So please respond to my post as soon as possible - they are leaving on Wed, they're in the center of the city, let's show them what San Francisco can do. Here are the parameters (beside the fact that it can't be a place that needs a reservation at this point) (what, you thought this would be easy?):

It has to be clean or at least have the appearance of cleanliness (my mom is kind of a pain in the ass about eating out, so there are some stringent parameters!)
It can't be too expensive. While they don't cheap out on their vacations, they're not spendy people in general, so mid-range or cheap eats is probably best.
Cuisine -- they are a little squeamish about different cuisines. The ideal cuisine is Italian (please no spaghetti and meatballs!), seafood, or Chinese (but sadly, not chicken foot web soup kind of places. They like authentic Italian, not authentic Chinese.) Also, any great breakfast or lunch places (great delis or whatever) would also be helpful. They might try other cuisines but I don't think they would stray too far from that type of food.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to help. I can't let them leave without a good meal in their tummies.

PS -- tonight they are dining at Cioppino -- will they be disappointed..?

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  1. tonight they are dining at Cioppino -- will they be disappointed..?

    YES ... YES ... YES ... for heaven's sake stop them.

    Though I will confess I haven't eaten there yet. I've been working my way through Fisherman Wharf restaurants and based on what I've been reading this place is pretty low down on my list to try.

    Where have they eaten and been disappointed?

    If they are going after the namesake dish at that restaurant, Tadich's is the best and Scoma's is good too, not as good and $10 more. I have heard Rose Pistola has a good cioppino, but haven't tried it yet.

    5 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      You can get some pretty bad food at Tadich if you order the wrong things. Cioppino's dubious to me given the frozen shrimp.

      Rose Pistola was good on my most recent visit a few months ago (has had its ups and downs over the years), but pretty expensive.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Robert unless you've had the cioppino at Tadich I think it is unfair to base your opinion on a 1999 (or there abouts) review by the long deceased R.W. Apple of frozen shrimp. In the 8 or more years since that article things might have changed. I have had the cioppino at Tadich and it has been the best I've had to date out of about a half dozen I've tried. The shrimp were just fine. I have not read a report on this board where someone was disappointed with Tadich's cioppino. If there are any it is probably a many to one ratio. It is the most favorably mentioned version of that dish on the board.

        And exactly what dish have you personally had that was pretty bad at Tadich and how long ago was that?

        1. re: rworange

          I had Tadich's cioppino a year or two back and it was okay except for the shrimp. My companions' crab Louie ... I was happy I didn't order it.

          I would not hesitate to recommend the place if I could be sure that people would order the pan-fried sand dabs or Rex sole.

        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          Where do you find good never frozen shrimp in the bay area? With the exception of grass shrimp sold as bait to a lucky few, I didn't know we had any local shrimp, and unless they're local I'd rather have flash frozen shrimp that are stored well and carefully defrosted.

          I guess in season we get good live prawns in Chinese markets and restaurants, but they aren't local so wouldn't be authentic for a Cioppino.

          1. re: SteveG

            Call Monterey Fish. They do sell non-local shrimp that has never been frozen but they also sell local spot shrimp when it is in season.

      2. Well, if they were my parents, I'd recommend either Isa in the Marina or Luella on top of Russian Hill (Hyde St.) way before I'd suggest Cioppino. Truth be told, I've not been to Cioppino, but wouldn't have high expectations. I assume they will be able to cab around town? Both Luella and Isa are very close to Cioppino.

        1. Maybe La Ciccia? Or Pazzia?

          -----
          La Ciccia
          291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

          Pazzia Restaurant
          337 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

          1. Antica Trattoria on Polk St. is also quite near to Cioppino - I am assuming they are staying somewhere in the Wharf neighborhood? Though I've not yet been to Antica, there are many good reports. Also in that neighborhood is Yabbie's Coastal Kitchen, where they can get seafood.

            1. They will be bummed if they go to Cioppino. The following places (among others) all have availability tonight on opentable.com:

              - palio d'asti 7pm
              - perbacco 8pm
              - ristorante milano 7pm
              - amarena 7pm
              - rose pistola 8pm

              4 Replies
              1. re: Husky

                Thank you all for all these posts and husky, thanks for putting in the time on this one. I've stopped them from going to Cioppino, but I sent them to Antica Trattoria, which I think may be closed on Monday based on their website. Are any of the restaurants listed above near Cioppino? Thanks again!!!

                1. re: vvv03

                  Pesce's near Antica Trattoria.

                  Rose Pistola is up the hill from Cioppino, Perbacco is over the hill.

                  All are open Monday.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    You guys rock! I'll report back when I hear from them!

                  2. re: vvv03

                    All of the ones I mentioned are near Cioppino - Isa, Luella, Yabbie's Coastal Kitchen and Antica - maybe that for tomorrow? I think most are also on Open Table which makes life much easier!

                2. Italian restaurants that seem to please Italians:

                  A16 (very traditional Napoletana)
                  Antica Trattoria (owner's from Bergamo)
                  Incanto (California but I always see happy Italians there)
                  La Ciccia (chef/owner is Sardinian)
                  Ristorante Ideale (chef/owner is Roman)
                  Pazzia (Tuscan-run pizza place)
                  Perbacco (northern cuisine, manager's from Torino)
                  Pesce (same owner as Antica Trattoria)

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Robert, my parents went to Pesce last night and loved it!! Thanks for the suggestion. If you happen to be on, I posted a few minutes ago to get some suggestions for dinner tonight. They're in Little Italy (hope you're up for that challenge!)

                    2. I suggest
                      Sam's Grill for that old time San Francisco restaurant feel with fresh fresh fish -only open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner
                      Scoma's for the Italian Fisherman's Wharf experience

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: charlotteowens

                        Yeah, be real careful about Scomas. I'd only suggest lunch there which is a deal ... three courses for about $21 bucks. I personally love the fish at Scoma's, they have their own boats and it is stellar fresh. The sides though are average and dinner is deadly expensive. But lunch ... that's a different thing. Go with the fish that is offered.

                        At dinner consider just splitting an entree ... and again ... stick with plain fish and ask what is fresh. The entrees are beyond huge. I actually liked the fish better in my cioppino at Scomas over the fish in the Cioppino at Tadich. However, the cioppino at Scomas has a thick tomato broth close to a sauce. It was too much for one person to eat.

                        1. re: rworange

                          with respect, I think scoma's and sam's are bad choices given what you've told us about your parents. they're both quite expensive, especially sam's, and the gruff steakhouse service at sam's might be charming to some, but i hate it.

                          1. re: sfoperalover

                            Sam's Grill's fish entrees are $14 to $24. That's not expensive for fresh, wild-caught fish by SF standards. Scoma's fish entrees are $23 to $32.

                      2. If they want good Italian food I love l'Osteria del Forno on Columbus in North Beach. It is traditional Northern Italian and a they specialize in things that come from the oven, hence the del forno. Their polenta is fabulous! I have spent a lot of time in Italy and am very picky about my Italian food and I think this is the best place in San Francisco. It isn't too expensive and they have a website is you google them. Yum!!! It is a small restaurant and I don't know if they take reservations.

                        1. Although no one seems to list it, my parents (& I) love Trattoria Contadina. The roasted bell pepper starter is a must have. I've referred a few people to this place that continue to return to it. I think Antica on Polk St. is lovely as well. A little more polished whereas Contadina is very cozy and a little kitschy with all the pictures & autographs on the walls.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: jcan

                            You know I've driven past the Trattoria Contadina many times and the only time I tried to go it had a long wait and we skipped it because of that. It is good to know that it is a good spot and I will have to try it some time.

                            1. re: SFGourmande

                              Contadina's on my list of places to check out soon, I go by it on the bus several times a week and always forget about it by the time I get down the hill.