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Best Northern Italian

We are celebrating my oldest daughter's completion of the bar exams in early August. Who has the best Italian fare these days?

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    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/25553

    1. Acquerello (French Influence)

      and

      Quince

      1. Perbacco (240 California Street, SF) is very, very good. It features the food of Piemonte & Liguria.

        1. I would go for Perbacco for the best Northern Italian fare (to me, the best Italian period!). Everything on the menu is pretty good, but don't pass on the Agnolotti dal Plin and the braised meats.
          Cheaper and less formal is Ristorante Milano in Russian Hill.

          1. Depends on what you mean by "northern Italian." Sometimes in the US people use it to mean anyplace that serves fresh pasta or that's not red-sauce Italian-American.

            Assuming you're talking about places that serve regional dishes from Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, the Veneto, and Emilia Romagna (and my list would be very different if you aren't):

            Perbacco often features specialties from Piemonte, Liguria, and Venice.

            Pesce and Da Flora are sort of Venetian.

            L'Osteria del Forno is sort of Bolognese but it's not really a celebration-type place.

            Milano changed hands, the current owner is Roman and the menu is more Roman than anything else.

            Acquerello and Quince I'd call Cal-French-Italian.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Not to change the subject, but when did Milano change hands? I always enjoyed the restaurant and knew one of the owners - not operational type of owner.

              1. re: poulet_roti

                Unless I am mistaken, Milano changed hands at least 5-7 years ago.

                1. re: poulet_roti

                  I'm not sure, but the original menu was definitely northern, as was the woman who handled the front of the house, hence the name.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Ristorante Milano has had the same owner / Executive Chef for almost 20 years -- Aldo Blasi. I find it the most consistent true Italian food in the area -- not French or Continental like Aquarello or Quince. Aldo's done a great job consistently with housemade pastas and gnocchi and fresh fish and great veal. Really a wonderful dinner always.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I agree that defining "Northern Italian" is difficult. I doubt that there are any more "classic" restaurants like Paoli, Doro, Oreste (later Orsi), Ernies because people no longer eat that way. North Beach rest is close, but the food is not top-notch. I've never eaten in an upscale restaurant in Florence, but I would guess they are into many course, small plates, just like us. I think Robert is right...people define No Ital as no dry pasta and no tomato sauce.

                  1. re: OldTimer

                    Many small courses is more a French thing. A really elaborate Italian meal might be:

                    antipasto - appetizer(s)
                    primo - pasta or soup, maybe "assaggi" (tastes) of several pastas
                    secondo - meat or fish
                    with contorni - vegetables, traditionally ordered separately
                    insalata - salad
                    formaggio - cheese
                    dolce - dessert
                    espresso

                    You can drop courses (except primo and secondo), but that's the invariable progression. Incanto, Oliveto, La Ciccia, A16, and Antica Trattoria are some good choices for more or less that sort of traditional meal.

                    SPQR, Dopo, and Pizzaiolo have great food but less traditionally structured menus. Dopo doesn't even have secondi.