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Where to take visiting Italians?

I have some business colleagues from Verona, Italy coming to town next week and I want to take them to some restaurants that they cannot replicate at home. Obviously, Italian is out. So far I'm thinking Sebo and Slanted Door. One of my guests is pretty "stuffy/uptight", so my favorite Taquerias in the Mission are out. I'll probably take them on a cable car ride down California Street to Swan's also...


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  1. Well, in the spirit of Swan, Tadich is something they can't replicate at home. If not Mission taquerias, maybe a more upscale Mexican place, like Colibri or Mexico DF. Something American? Town Hall? Bix?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Tadich seems dicey to me. The food is fundamentally Italian, basically a version of what someone from Ancona would eat if they went to the Italian coast for a vacation, and probably not as good.

    2. House of Prime Rib. Italians love huge American servings of beef.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        This is a fantastic idea. Unless they've been to Los Angeles or Vegas, they probably won't have had a huge slab of prime rib with all the traditional trimmings. Plus, the old school ambiance can't be replicated elsewhere.

        Upscale Mexican like Colibri, Mexico DF, or Tropisueno is also a great idea, but I'd to those for happy hour or lunch instead.

      2. Personally I would be disappointed to be served Asian food while in the US. Take them somewhere uniquely Californian or American. The stuffy guy might even be offended - "you think we don't know what good Japanese food is? Trying to show us off? Where is the beef?".

        1. Definitely california cuisine, Range fits the bill or Nopa. Your colleagues should experience solid food and killer cocktails. Ame is quite unique even though there is some Japanese influence there.

          1. Also don't forget about Chillango, the new Mexico DF offshoot that opened up in Duboce/Castro area; depending on where you are locationwise.

            As the slow food movement started in Italy, I actually don't think they'd be super impressed by California cuisine.

            4 Replies
            1. re: vulber

              My experience with slow food guide top-rated restaurants in Italy was different; I think they started the slow food organization because they were having a worse food crisis than we were, caused by rapid encroachment of parmalat and such. Perverse, I know, but don't knock our good california cuisine restaurants.

              1. re: SteveG

                I think vulber is right, California cuisine is generally too much like Italian food to be terribly interesting.

                Slow Food was started specifically in response to McDonald's opening a branch off the Spanish Steps. I was living in Rome at the time and there was no general crisis, just a tendency of teenagers to eat hamburgers. The tradition of shopping daily at the local open market was and is still much stronger. The foodie minority here was and is the majority there.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  At the open markets I visited in Italy, the quality and variety of the produce was nothing compared to what we have here. Yes, it was fresh and seasonal and thus blessed by slow food, but it wasn't all that good. Again, I think our local produce and restaurants that take advantage of it shouldn't be discounted. I would think the differences in preparation and ingredients that differentiate californian from Italian would be interesting to an Italian eater, but I'm probably wrong.

                  1. re: SteveG

                    Our variety is superior, but the ordinary produce I got at my neighborhood open market in Rome was comparable to the best I ever find at the best farmers markets here. Some things here rarely come close: garlic, tomatoes, melons, peaches, strawberries ... sigh.

            2. Mexican to Asian to steaks...how about just email & ask them if they're looking forward to trying anything in particular during their visit here?

              1. being of italian descent, my gut reaction would be the steakhouse. but it depends on the individuals. are the visitors all male? are they older beefy guys or youngish metrosexual-types? it takes discipline to fit into a euro-cut italian suit! and there IS such a thing as an italian vegetarian. i think the best thing is to just ask them, as was already mentioned. or how about something they might not even know they want to do? like a sake tasting? vietnamese? upscale car show? i would go for things that are unique to this area - like the 17mile drive (because every time they see a picture of that tree by itself, for the rest of their lives, they will think 'i was there! and (husky) took me there'. and photos of them with the golden gate bridge in the background..

                1 Reply
                1. re: jart

                  A steakhouse is another safe bet. Alfred's or Harris'.

                2. The R & G is a really good chinese place. It's up-scale enough to satisfy your stuffy friend.
                  For me this place, though the food is good, is a little over-priced. You can find food of this quality cheaper at the Lychee Garden which is just a few blocks away. Though this place does not have the upscale chic of the R & G. It's just good family style chinese. By the way, if you decide to go to the R&G do not let them seat you downstairs. This is the area where people with kids generally are seated. It's more cramped and loud in this area

                  R & G Lounge
                  631 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: silando2001

                    I wouldn't take people to R&G if they don't frequently visit SF. The ambiance is just not special enough for visitors. It's not upscale enough to be fancy, and it's not unique enough to get a pass for local charm. The whole restaurant is kind of cramped and loud: a "pretty stuffy" person will not be pleased.

                    1. re: Pei

                      If he wants to do Chinese, they might like Louie's, though. Husky didn't say how big his group was, but the shoji rooms at Louie's provide a classy, private atmosphere at no extra cost, and the prices there are reasonable.

                      Louie's California Chinese
                      646 Washington Street, San Francisco, CA 94111-2106

                      1. re: Pei

                        I think it depends what floor you're on at R&G.. The basement is cramped, noisy with marble floors and not much fun. The upstairs however is certainly nice enough by most standards, modern and plenty of room.

                        p.s. I'm not a fan of Boulevard but in this situation it could work, very pleasant, upscale environment, new American...and they'll read enough about it being decent not to be scared. If money isn't an issue, perhaps the Dining Room at the Ritz...you'll get a fine meal and the stuffy person will be okay.

                    2. If they are well travelled within Italy , steak is not the way to go. The steaks are big and good,
                      bistecca alla Fiorentina .
                      I would probably try someplace like Boulevard .

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: celeryroot

                        A fiorentina is nothing like an American steak.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Ive had it many times and it is very similar to a large porterhouse......although the taste is slightly more lean and grassy and it is sometimes cooked on the heat directly.
                          But it is excellent if you are willing to pay for it.

                      2. Hi TIA, I have friends coming from Milan soon, They are published authors and write or co-own a publishing co. I know how you want to make a good impression. They have told me that they want the true SF/CA experience. They want to fit in with the locals and experience the life of the places they travel to. I would start at a steak house and ask them what they would like to see in SF & do for fun after the business is finished.They like to relax in jeans and try different things to eat. There is so much to see & do. I'm going to do sports bar, jazz club, Top of the Mark(something nice on the last night), Ferry building, farmer's market, Golden Gate(maybe even a walk across it),cable car, the steeper, the better! Embarcadero,wineries too, if there is time. If the stuffy/uptight one is the big boss, I'm sure he wants to experience SF life too. Italians love fun & relaxation. And spontaneity.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nightbird

                          nightbird TIA in chow speak is probably thanks in advance, not Husky's name or even transient ischemic attack.

                        2. Thank you to all for your suggestions...and FYI, my visitors are two women...I may be able to get them to do a drive by for a quick El Toyanese taco truck taco...


                          1. Definitely Olive Garden.
                            Just kidding.

                            How about Bix? A truly american atmosphere, in a good way.
                            Jardiniere has a similar vibe, but less so.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: pauliface

                              Bix would probably be great. Jardiniere might be a little too French.

                            2. On the other hand, despite Italy's connection with the Slow Food movement; you don't really see a ton of restaurants in Italy embracing the fusion concept of combining an ethnic cuisine with the values of the Slow Food Movement; so a place like Slanted Door, Aziza, The House, etc. could work.

                              1. I am Italian (from Padova, near Verona) and often have visitors in SF - I would take them to the House of Prime Rib ... the Slanted Door ... perhaps Greens ... maybe dimsum or sushi. I don't recommend the nice Californian/American restaurants (Boulevard, Bix, Jardiniere ...), as they are too similar to what they would eat in Verona or Northern Italy. I would ask them if there is something special they would like to do ... I think Top of the Mark or something like that would be a good idea too ...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sflady

                                  Are there any Italian restaurants here that you like? I ate very well in Padova and the Colli Euganei. Sfilacci di cavallo ... not going to see that around here.