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SF (or Bay Area) Authentic Sicilian Restaurant?

mjj1066 Mar 5, 2008 05:17 PM

I'm looking for a recommendation for an authentic restaurant, preferably of high quality, that is dedicated to Sicilian food in the city. I know the whole A16 routine as a source for some Sicilian dishes but would like a deeper survey than our friends on Chestnut offer. Outside of SF is a second option but one that I'd be happy to entertain. Thanks.

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  1. Scott M RE: mjj1066 Mar 5, 2008 05:56 PM

    I haven't been yet, but maybe a trip to the North Bay is in order.


    Mezzo Mezzo
    1025 C St, San Rafael, CA

    1. Xiao Yang RE: mjj1066 Mar 5, 2008 07:07 PM

      Caffe Sport in North Beach is Sicilian, but I haven't heard much about the food since the original Chef/Owner Antonio La Tuna passed away.

      Alioto's at (gasp) Fisherman's Wharf, is Sicilian.

      The humble U.S. Restaurant in North Beach is Sicilian. (The U.S.stands for "U; Siciliano".)

      Those are three I know about; but this is San Francisco, after all, where Northern Italian reigns.

      1. Robert Lauriston RE: mjj1066 Mar 6, 2008 09:34 AM

        You might get on Incanto's mailing list for the special mattanza dinner.

        The food at Caffe Sport is nothing like what I had in Sicily.

        The owners of the Original US Restaurant may be of Sicilian extraction, but the food is strictly Nord Biccese.

        Reportedly Sicilian restaurants I haven't tried:

        Palermo's Restaurant
        1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA

        Belle Arti
        1040 Main Street, Napa, CA

        La Finestra Ristorante
        100 Lafayette Cir Ste 101, Lafayette, CA 94549

        17 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          Xiao Yang RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 6, 2008 11:00 AM

          The original owners of U.S. Restaurant were apparently actually Slavs (per the Chron's Original Joe's article link you posted recently) but only lately the U.S. started displaying "U; Siciliano" prominently on the window, so I assume it's the current regime that claims to be Sicilian. To tell the truth, I haven't eaten there since before the makeover of the original location (currently the Panta Rei site).

          1. re: Xiao Yang
            Robert Lauriston RE: Xiao Yang Mar 6, 2008 11:16 AM

            Does the current U.S. Restaurant actually make any claim to be Sicilian? The online menus on menupages.com and menupix.com are standard North Beach Italian, which is what the place always used to be, plus American breakfast and lunch dishes.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              Xiao Yang RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 6, 2008 03:23 PM

              Here's an early report on the change to Sicilian ownership from GAW in 2004. I'll try and score a current menu and check it against what's published.


              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                Xiao Yang RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 6, 2008 06:51 PM

                Smokescreen or whatever, here's the way the US currently presents itself. Note that the phrase "U; Sicilianu" are also at the top of the menu shown on the menu board.

              2. re: Xiao Yang
                waldrons RE: Xiao Yang Mar 6, 2008 05:44 PM

                "U.S." originally meant "Unione Sportiva". Not sure what that means, but that's what the old signs said.


                1. re: waldrons
                  Robert Lauriston RE: waldrons Mar 7, 2008 07:36 AM

                  That was the name of an athletic / social club across the street.

                  1. re: waldrons
                    Eat_Nopal RE: waldrons Mar 7, 2008 03:21 PM

                    U.S. (Unione Sportiva) is the name by which Sicily's main Football (soccer) club is referred to in its hometown of Palermo. Other Italians (and foreigners) refer to club as Palermo but to the locals its still the U.S.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Eat_Nopal Mar 7, 2008 03:42 PM

                      The Unione Sportiva club was reportedly across the street when the U.S. Restaurant opened in 1907, at which time Palermo's team was still called il Football Club Palermo.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Xiao Yang RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 7, 2008 06:34 PM

                        It's now The Italian Athletic Club, and located on Stockton next to the :Post Offfice.


                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          Eat_Nopal RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 9, 2008 10:32 AM

                          The team was founded in 1902 and its name was & still is Unione Sportiva Citate Palermo.... but Sicilians always referred to it simply as the Unione Sportiva or U.S.... it was only non-Sicilians that called it IL Palermo

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                    TopoTail RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 8, 2008 08:27 AM

                    Funny that the U.S.'s Sicilian roots should come up just now. Lidia Bastianich of "Lidia's Italy" recently did Spaghetti Pesto Trapansese, a dish I first experienced in Trapani, the Sicilian city it was named after. It involves chopping up almonds, garlic, tomatoes and hot pepper flakes with olive oil and I love it.

                    Anyway, this spurred a memory that I had spaghetti Trapanese a the U.S. restaurant a few years ago, and it appears they still serve it (with sausage). It's not something I've run into in very many restaurants and speaks of Sicilian roots.

                    1. re: TopoTail
                      Xiao Yang RE: TopoTail Mar 8, 2008 08:55 AM

                      Apparenty the original owner of the US was a Slav (and who knows what the"US" stood for then), but the Cippolinas, who owned it for 50 years prior to the regime change in 2004 were Sicilian (or at least the husband was) but put out that the "US" stood for "Unione Sportiva" and had a mostly mainland Italian menu (with some exceptions,as you noted). The current trio of owners (one of whom is Sicilian) have kicked up the Sicilian ID (with a map of Sicily on the window and turning the "US" into "U; Sicilianu"). Not sure what they've done with the menu to make it more Sicilian.

                      1. re: Xiao Yang
                        Robert Lauriston RE: Xiao Yang Mar 8, 2008 08:57 AM

                        Looking closely at the long menu, I see about half a dozen Sicilian or Sicilian-influenced dishes.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                      Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston Dec 29, 2013 06:11 PM

                      To offer an update on Original U. S. Restaurant, I was there with my mom in September when she asked for spaghetti and meatballs. It was crowded at 6pm on a weekday and we scored the last table.

                      To start, the U.S. Salad that's garnished with marinated white beans, olives and red onions. The tomatoes were terrible considering the time of year.

                      I had the pasta Trapanese, my first time with this Sicilian dish. It doesn't show in the pastas listed in the online menu but does appear on the catering menu. Again, underripe and cottony tomatoes were a problem, and the scant toasted almonds were mostly slivers and sliced, whereas ground nuts would seem more appropriate. The flavor mostly came from olive oil and cheese. To its credit, the spaghetti was al dente.

                      We did like the spaghetti and polpette. Mom did complain that the pasta was too hard for her (just right in my book).

                      Did the sauce have the cinnamon spice that Zach laments here as missing? Dunno, I wasn't looking for it, maybe. I'll just mark this plate of spaghetti and meatballs as enjoyable and enough for two meals.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        hyperbowler RE: Melanie Wong Dec 29, 2013 06:50 PM

                        Hmmm... Does any north beach Italian restaurant use good quality fresh tomatoes when they're in season? I've had bad luck at a few places this year, e.g. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8086...

                        1. re: hyperbowler
                          Melanie Wong RE: hyperbowler Dec 31, 2013 08:42 PM

                          Maybe Tony's or Rose Pistola?

                          Ideale served up a beautiful fresh tomato sauce in September,

                          1. re: hyperbowler
                            Robert Lauriston RE: hyperbowler Jan 1, 2014 11:21 AM

                            Cotogna's almost in North Beach and they use first-rate seasonal produce.

                      2. a
                        Amy G RE: mjj1066 Mar 6, 2008 05:32 PM

                        Ristorante mezzo mezzo in Marin. There are some mundane dishes but others such as the pasta with cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins, and saffron are great. I really like the sea bass with blood oranges and the rabbit too. Skip the apps.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Amy G
                          Sarah RE: Amy G Mar 6, 2008 05:50 PM

                          I bet if you called them and asked for certain or authentic off-menu specialties, they'll be happy to comply (with notice).

                        2. hill food RE: mjj1066 Mar 6, 2008 06:40 PM

                          wasn't there some ultra old-school Italian joint on Taraval near the Safeway? and I seem to remember another way out on Noriega, but definitely red sauce and off the beaten path.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: hill food
                            Calvinist RE: hill food Mar 6, 2008 08:03 PM

                            Marcello's Restaurant
                            2100 Taraval St
                            San Francisco, CA 94116
                            (415) 665-1430

                            I haven't been there -- but I served on a jury with the owner!

                            1. re: Calvinist
                              hill food RE: Calvinist Mar 7, 2008 12:04 AM

                              ha! small world. Marcello's was what I was thinking of. Sicilian, I don't know (my ignorance).

                              1. re: Calvinist
                                Robert Lauriston RE: Calvinist Mar 7, 2008 07:38 AM

                                Ristorante Marcello has a very northern menu: pasta Bolognese, veal parmagiana, prawns alla Livornese.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  hill food RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 7, 2008 01:44 PM


                                  just ignore me.

                            2. f
                              foodeye RE: mjj1066 Mar 7, 2008 08:27 AM

                              Not sure how authentic or if it's really of the highest quality, but there's Trattoria La Siciliana on College Ave. in Berkeley which is quite popular.


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: foodeye
                                Robert Lauriston RE: foodeye Mar 7, 2008 09:11 AM

                                It's a fun place, if you're not in a hurry, but the food's not traditional Sicilian.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  happenstance RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 8, 2008 01:36 AM

                                  But the family is actually Sicilian, so if nothing else it is a great time.

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