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Pesce or A16? Terzo or Delfina?

My wife and I are from St. Paul, MN, and will be visiting San Francisco/Sonoma for our first time later this month in celebration of my 30th birthday. After much research and deliberation I have narrowed my dinner choices down to 2 on both Friday and Saturday night. My hope is that the informed members of Chowhound can help me decide where we should dine. On Friday the choices are Terzo and Delfina. On Saturday night the choices are Pesce and A16. Thanks!

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  1. Although it may seem duplicitous, I'd recommend Delfina and A16. Although both are Italian, they're different in that Delfina is Italian with a strong California influence, while A16 is southern Italian (Campanian) in it's focus. Both have excellent wine lists, however, A16's is a bit more unique with it's southern Italian focus. At Delfina, don't miss the calamari and bean antipasto or the profiteroles for dessert and at A16 the pizzas are very authentic Neapolitan in style and the pork meatballs are amazing. Good luck procuring reservations!

    1. I'd pick A16 or Delfina over Pesce (which I like a lot).

      Though I'll probably go back to Incanto and La Ciccia before returning to any of those places.

      Haven't been to Terzo.

      1. A16, as mentioned previously, is focused on Southern Italian food and wine. They have great pizza and pasta as well solid "Secondi" (main courses) plus a nice selection of cured meats. Pesce is Venetian cuisine with a greater focus on seafood and less of a 'traditional' Italian menu. I believe that the quality of raw ingredients and execution is a noticeable step up at A16, not that Pesce is bad, yet the price point is the same. The wine list (I'm in the wine business) is far superior in terms of quality, selection, and value at A16. That said I have enjoyed Pesce many times.

        I'll leave the Delfina/Terzo debate to others.

        6 Replies
        1. re: mjj1066

          Thank you all for the feedback. It sounds as if everyone is in agreement that given the choice A16 is the restaurant not to be missed and that there is enough of a difference between A16 and Delfina so as to not be redundant. One question I have is how difficult will it be to get to either A16 or Pesce from the Union Square part of town given we will not have transportation. On a map of downtown it looks like it is a bit of a hike, but perhaps I am mistaken. One other thing, we are looking to hit a breakfast joint near Union Square on Sunday prior to heading to wine country and I was wondering about recommendations. It sounds as if Canteen is the real deal, but I can't seem to find a brunch menu on their website. Perhaps you all could shed some light. Thanks!

          1. re: njbreyer

            The 30 Stockton bus goes right by Union Square and A16.

            To get to Delfina, you can take BART (subway) from Powell to 16th.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              We took #30 bus to A 16 last week. Be sure to get off at the correct location, as the bus passes Chesnut more than once! Get off at DIVISADERO and Chestnut stop.

              The return trip required us to walk several blocks. While that was ok, we walked through a very quiet residential area to catch the bus [#45] on Union to go back to 4th & Mkt. I wasn't sure why the route was different for the return - perhaps due to the later time? We used SFMTA to plan trips and that worked well for us.

            2. re: njbreyer

              You'll want to take a cab to both.

              1. re: njbreyer

                Here is a link to a thread in which the brunch at Canteen is discussed:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433713

                Highly recommend! As for their website, they only post the menu for dinner for that week.

              2. re: mjj1066

                greetings mjj, based strictly on the food and wine I completely agree with you. What l find appealing about Pesce are other factors--A16 is often unbearably loud for the conversation level I'd prefer to have with companions (of course others prefer that "buzz"), and Pesce has a warmer, neighborhood eatery feeling to it. Though its wine list can't compare to A16's I think its well suited to the foods.

              3. Delfina is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, but I was a little disappointed by my meal there recently. Cooked water with poached egg looked great but tasted kind of blah. And the fennel gratin that came with my duck overpowered all other flavors on the plate.

                8 Replies
                1. re: a_and_w

                  "Cooked water with poached egg"? What exactly was it besides an egg?

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Vegetables. It's a soup with a fancy italian name that escapes me at the moment. But the translation is literally "cooked water."

                      1. re: Husky

                        Yep, that's the daddy -- thanks.

                  2. re: a_and_w

                    Thanks all for the insight on Pesce, A16 and Delfina. Does anybody out there have anything to add (positive or negative) about a recent trip to Terzo? Delfina is definately sounding like the obvious choice for us on Friday night, but would like a couple of opinions on what Terzo is offering these days.

                    1. re: njbreyer

                      Personally, my one visit to Delfina (this was about a month or so ago) was extraordinarily underwhelming. In the first place, it is *far* more Californian than Italian. If you go in expecting Italian, you'll be disappointed. Secondly, I found the food bland and boring. SWMBO and I can cook far better at home (and for much less, obviously). The profiteroles (mentioned above) were terrible. *shrug* I don't get that place.

                      If you want actual Italian (Sardinian, actually), I strongly recommend La Ciccia at Church and 30th. We've been there often and have never been disappointed.

                      1. re: allsouls

                        Most of Delfina's appetizers, first courses, and side dishes are pretty Italian. The main dishes are often straight-up "New American." Not a bad idea in concept, since Italian main courses are often just a simple piece of meat or fish on a plate, and boring by American standards.

                        http://www.delfinasf.com/menu.html

                        1. re: allsouls

                          It's funny you say that. The first time I went to Delfina was with no knowledge or expectations, and someone else did all the ordering. For me, it was love at first bite but I actually didn't realize it was Italian until subsequent visits when I saw the menu. Anyway, I find the salads, antipasti, and pastas are my favorites. This most recent visit was an effort to branch out into mains and a bit of a mistake.

                    2. I've been to them all, half more than twice. My votes in order

                      1. A-16
                      - great wine list, fresh ingredients, highlights the virtues of Campania food, and one of the best places in the city to order a bottle of Taurasi wine
                      2. Delfina
                      - Never loved this place as much as others have. It's absolutely solid, but there are other contenders. What is cool is that the restaurant sends some of its employees to live in Emilia-Romagna for "studies" from time-to-time to prefect their craft.

                      3. Terzo
                      - They had a bit of the small plate thing going on. Good, but there's a lot of places of this caliber in SF.

                      4. Pesce
                      - Also good with a lot of equal, if not better, competition.