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Ideas: Atmosphere trumps food?

A very good friend of mine is in town from NYC next week. We have not seen each other for several years - since he got sober, married, had kids etc.. we have a lot to talk about. I have spent a considerable amount of time looking at old posts, but nothing seems right. Would love any suggestions the board might have for a SF gem where we can actually have a conversation and not feel rushed.

Atmosphere: good vibe, quiet- but not empty, gemutlich - but not too casual
Price: $45ish each (neither of us drinks)
Locale: Not important -have car. (just not marina)
Takes Reservations: Yes (a must)
Type: Cal, Italian, whatever - good ingredients but not too fussy. Some of my favs: Pizzeria Delfina, Nopalito, A16, Chez Papa, Ryoko, Piccino, bar Jules

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions. I am a bit anxious about the reunion.

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A16
2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

Chez Papa
1401 18th St., San Francisco, CA 94107

Piccino Restaurant & Coffee Bar
1001 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107

Ryoko Restaurant & Bar
619 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Pizzeria Delfina
2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

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  1. What doesn't seem right about Chez Papa Resto?

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    Chez Papa Resto
    4 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. La Ciccia? Great little place, very welcoming, easy to linger. Can be a little noisy in there (few restaurants in SF aren't), but conversation is usually easy.

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

        1. If you are meeting on a weekend night, a reservation type restaurant will want to turn their table. I would choose a reservation on the late side or perhaps some place out of the way like Firefly or Bacco. I haven't been to either in a while, but remember them fitting your specs.

          1. Try Globe, it also stays open late.

            8 Replies
            1. re: ML8000

              thank for the quick input - La Ciccia it is!

              This was my first time posting. I apologize for divulging "TMI" in my post. I explained my friend's situation not to waste anyone's time and to get targeted recommendations for an intimate atmosphere that this type of discussion requires. Not easily found in SF.

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

              1. re: bkadams

                Have you been to La Ciccia before? It's one of my favorite restaurants, but at peak times it can get pretty noisy, and the tables are close together.

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

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I would have said Globe too. I never, ever feel rushed there, you can have a conversation, and alcohol's not the highlight.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    I would have a hard time giving Globe an unconditional recommendation as a place where you can have a conversation. Every time I've been there in the last several years, the noise level has been fine, but that's because I've been there on nights when they have been less than 50 percent full. Back during the dot-com days when this place was packed, it was one of the loudest restaurants in town and it was almost impossible to have a conversation there. Not sure that it ever gets that packed these days, but it's still a small space with exposed brick walls. Consequently, it is likely to be noisy if and when it gets crowded. The latest SF Chronicle review from 2006 rates the noise level a "bomb" which is their loudest rating.

                    But like I said, on the slow nights I've been there recently, the experience has been very nice and mellow.

                    1. re: nocharge

                      Good point. I always go there on the late side (because that's its niche in my mind), and have the same half-full experience you have. It's very pleasant at those hours.

                2. re: bkadams

                  Recommended to me by this board, Gitane was very cozy with a sleek atmosphere. I had no problem with conversation and its fun hidden back in an alley.

                  Very good stuffed calamari. Good place for drinks and apps.

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                  Gitane Restaurant & Bar
                  6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108

                  1. re: myst

                    Oh, that's another great idea. I had no problem with conversation there either.