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tomasso's north beach

what's the deal here? it seems as if it's it's yuppie puppy heaven.. the main course was poor, it tasted like my jewish grandmother made it with ketchup....hats off to the salsds though..but salads alone do NOT make a meal..i can't see waiting on line to eat here...can anyone recommend a good southern italian red sauce ny style restaurant in the bay area?

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  1. Tommaso's is for pizza. Tasty pies, convivial atmosphere and in north beach so you can stroll about after. That's all.

    1. Yeah, Tommaso's makes good pizza. The only other dishes I've had there that were good were cold marinated vegetables.

      NY-style Italian: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777344

      -----
      Tommaso Ristorante Italiano
      1042 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      2 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Agreed. I went a few months ago for pizza, which was good. The marinated vegies would have been nice had they not been nearly ice cold.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I'm a big fan of the coo-coo clams. The clams are tasty, and the broth is great for dipping bread.

        2. They make a nice mild, sweet bottled tomato pasta sauce.

          1. The home made ravioli's are great and like others have said the pizza is good too. I've never strayed too far from those dishes. I do like some of the appetizers, antipasto and marinated veggies.

            1 Reply
            1. re: virtualguthrie

              As I've mentioned over the years, I am a fan of two pasta dishes at Tommaso's: one with calamare*, the other with broccoli.

              Not being quite the trenchermen of yore, we don't always order a pasta as well as a pizza every visit.

              We don't have any restaurant hangouts (unless one counts the great Bistro in Incline, which we "hang out" in once annually); Tommaso's is as close to home-y to us as any place gets. I remember it when it was Lupo's; also remember when it baked bread on Wednesdays and Sundays, the days SF traditional breads were unavailable fresh. We now go only a couple of times a year, but part of the reason for that is my ever-decreasing taste for foods made with white flour.

              *I was so disappointed by a meal a few years ago, I stayed away for ages; finally went back and it seemed back on track. That one time, the calamare reminded me of the frozen Chinese variety, and everything else seemed a bit off as well.

            2. mr. cummings,

              if you are looking for a good southern italian red sauce ny style restaurant in the bay area you won't find it at tomasso's or any other restaurant.

              you will find bits and pieces here and there, but never the whole package.

              consider the salad. that is california's strength. no ny red sauce joint will match it wieth their iceberg, pale tomato, canned black olive, cucumber slice.

              there is lots of good italian, it is just a different style.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rworange

                If there's one thing I don't miss about Long Island, it's that misguided "health food item" called salad pizza--- the salad you described, sans cucumber, dripping with cheap Italian dressing and served on a thin crust slice. Yuk!

                I made the mistake of fulfilling a guest's request for spaghetti and meatballs by bringing them to Tomasso's. At least my dish was good!

                Uncle Dougies in Berkeley makes a good NY style eggplant parmesan hero. It's big and the taste is right. They don't have a veal parmesan, but their chicken parmesan is pretty good.

                -----
                Uncle Dougie's
                2328 Bowditch St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                1. re: hyperbowler

                  Yes, Uncle Dougie's is exactly right.

                  In the city, Il Borgo serves delicious pasta and pizzas in the style you're looking for (not NY Italian, just inexpensive unpretentious Southern Italian).

                  -----
                  Il Borgo
                  500 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Uncle Dougie's
                  2328 Bowditch St, Berkeley, CA 94704

              2. Capp's Corner comes to mind as worth a shot. Vila Romano is lower on my list. These are San Francisco red sauce joints.

                In truth, there isn't much in the way of very good Southern style red sauce in NY either. I mean, places like Carmine's have a following there for some reason.

                For a good red sauce itself, I've yet to have a pizza there which I thought was anything worth the hype, but Tony's makes a good gravy.

                People go overboard with raves for La Ciccia, but their Bolognese is in line with a good Sardinian red saucy dish

                Finally, La Traviata is probably the closest approximation of what you're looking for. They make pasta in house, the cut their garlic a little thick without finesse, there's Opera, and you don't have to haul up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to get to it.

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

                Capp's Corner
                1600 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                La Traviata
                2854 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                25 Replies
                1. re: sugartoof

                  La Ciccia is great, but if there's any east coast influence it's the east coast of Sardinia.

                  Capp's Corner is the last of the old-school family-style North Beach restaurants, which was a very different tradition from the East Coast.

                  Bertolucci's in South SF might be closest to East Coast style.

                  -----
                  Capp's Corner
                  1600 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                  Sodini's Bertoluccis Ristorante
                  421 Cypress Avenue, South San Francisco, CA 94080

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Has anyone been to Giovanni's in Berkeley since it changed hands back to the original owners. It seems like the kind of menu people are looking for. Also, there's Francesco's in Oakland (where at the very least you might see a professional athlete or two).

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      There was no such thing as East Coast style Italian. It's the same red sauce tradition, with the same Italian American roots, wether you're in Chicago, or San Francisco, or New York. Capp's Corner was a part of that. So I'm not sure the point of your correction.

                      Joey & Eddie's was the only one influenced by the surviving New York/East Coast places, and it's gone now, for good reason.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        I'm wondering whether or not Moma Leone's was a good or bad example of East Coast Italian. Boy, I miss that hunk of cheese in the middle of the table.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          The immigrants who founded the Italian communities on the East Coast were mostly from Sicily and Naples, the one who settled in North Beach came mostly from Liguria. That's why the first pizzeria in New York opened in 1905 but Lupo's (now Tommaso's), the first on the West Coast, didn't open until 1935. That's why SF had cioppino and New York had fresh mozzarella.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            We've had this discussion before and you're mistaken about North Beach being predominantly from Liguria. Or that immigrants of Liguria didn't use fresh mozzarella. Or that we're talking about regional differences at all. We're talking about the evolution of family style Italian American food, not regional cuisines. It's the same tradition if it ends up with red sauce and ravioli.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              People still complain that there's no decent red sauce here.

                              The kind of Italian-American food I knew from eating in North Beach was almost as different from what I had the first time I went to Little Italy in the 70s as Ligurian food is from Sicilian.

                              In North Beach in the 1970s mozzarella and ricotta were Polly-O. SF did not have places that made them fresh and sold direct like Little Italy did.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Polly-O ...that's an issue of quality. A lot of East Coast Mozzarella is freshly made out of a Polly-O base. Some people swear by it..

                                I've gone through the names of early SF Italian places in North Beach with you previously, and they were from diverse regions. You're still repeating this fantasy that it was a transplanted community from Liguria though. Your summation of experiences from the 70's is puzzling, since that style of food was on it's way out. We're talking about red sauce, and a bowl of ravioli ... no difference if you got it in North Beach or Little Italy.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  What were some of the characteristics of the 70s red sauce places in North Beach that differed from now?

                                  According to the Bancroft Library's Italian American page, there were Genoese (Ligurians) in California before the gold rush. Some southern Italians (e.g., Sicilians) immigrated following the gold rush, but they remained a minority (<20%) to northern Italians until at least the 1880s. We now associate North Beach with the Italian immigrants, but Little Italy began in Telegraph Hill before spreading to North Beach. In the 1930s, the Italians in North Beach were primarily immigrants who arrived after WWI.

                                  http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collecti...

                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                    The classic North Beach family-style menu was soup (usually minestrone), salad, pasta (usually ravioli or rigatoni) with meat sauce (ragù), main dish (of the day or your choice from a short list) with vegetable, ice cream, and coffee. Some places started with a simple antipasto. The food was usually not great but there was lots of it. The Basque family-style places had better food (though no pasta).

                                    I never heard anyone call them red-sauce places. Most served little or no tomato sauce. The Joe's-style short-order places did.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Robert, What you described also fits a back East family style dinner as well. The meat sauce you mention was a tomato sauce.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        It was meat sauce. I have old restaurant guidebooks that back up my memory on that.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Meat in a tomato base. I don't have to use a guide book to tell you that.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            Marinara and ragù are not the same things and they're not from the same places.

                                            The Italians who settled in SF in the mid-19th century spoke Ligurian, the ones who went to New York mostly spoke Neapolitan and Sicilian. Their dialects were (and are) mutually unintelligible, which is why people from different regions tended to settle in the same neighborhoods.

                                            The different regions had, and have, different cuisines. Pizza didn't become a pan-Italian food until after WWII. Ligurian ciuppin isn't the same as Livornese caciucco or Adriatic brodetto, and in most non-coastal parts of Italy people fish soup was completely unknown.

                                            Italian-American cuisine has gotten homogenized over the years, and has also been influenced by modern Italian cuisine, but minor regional differences persist sufficiently that people are not fantasizing when they complain that it's hard or impossible to find "East Coast red-sauce Italian" here.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              You're greatly misinformed about the topic.

                                              Depictions of North Beach as a singular community from Linguria, replicating their regional cuisine is lazy history. The most famous resident of North Beach, Joe Dimaggio, came from a Sicialian family. Even those lumped in, like say, PG Molinari, were actually from nearby regions. Owners of long gone restaurants, like New Pisa, Vanessi's, Gold Spike, and many that predate your 70's experience in North Beach, were not from Linguria.

                                              Tomasso's, the topic of this post, (originally known as Lupo's) was owned by an immigrant from ... Naples, not Liguria.

                                              Red sauce Italian, or family style Italian-American food with red sauce on the menu, has been a staple of North Beach and San Francisco for 70+ years.

                                              Today you can find Capp's Corner, Sodini's, Caffe Sport, US Cafe, and some that aren't even in North Beach. There were even more 10 years ago. The menus and mediocre food are nearly identical to that found in Italian themed neighborhoods like Little Italy today. If you're obsessing over a meatball sub or a specific dish, you may have trouble, but the style itself is not impossible or even hard to find.

                                              -----
                                              Capp's Corner
                                              1600 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                              Sodini's
                                              510 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                              Caffe Sport
                                              574 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                The regional differences between San Francisco and New York Italian-American cuisine date back to the mid-19th century. They have been declining since maybe the 1920s.

                                                "1840s: Genoese sailors spread word about California to their families in Liguria. This is why California's wine industry is mostly built by Genoese, despite the fact that Liguria is not a major wine region of Italy. .. 1910: San Francisco has 16,918 Italian immigrants, mostly from northern Italy."

                                                http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collecti...

                                                Molinari's opened in 1895. A.G. was from Piedmont. Some of the other delis were started by Tuscans. Still all northern, which means more beef, pork, and butter and less tomato, olive oil, and garlic. Hence the tradition of ragù rather than marinara sauce that lasted until the 1980s.

                                                Joe DiMaggio's family moved to North Beach in 1915. "To the outsider, the Genovesi and the Sicilian were both Italian, but ... old animosities and prejudices flourished between the Northern Italians, who still formed a solid majority of the Italian community in San Francisco, and Sicilians, who were regarded by Northern Italians as dirty, ignorant, and possessing few marketable skills ..."—"Joe DiMaggio, a Biography," David Jones (2004)

                                                Lupo's opened in 1934, almost 40 years after Neapolitans first started selling pizza in New York.

                                                Caffe Sport opened in 1969.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Victoria Bakery was opened in 1914 by Sicilians. Are there any older southern Italian food places?

                                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                                    The question is, what Ligurian restaurants were there?

                                                    Otherwise, it's time to drop that fairy tale.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                      Angelo del monte, one of the founders of Fior d'italia, and which is still in business was born in Levanto, La Spezia, Liguria. It opened in North Beach in 1886.

                                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                                        Sure, along with Liguria Bakery that one is obvious.

                                                        Plus they have always been the most Northern Italian of the bunch, and yet they too serve tomato based sauces, and veal dishes, and always have.

                                                        -----
                                                        Liguria Bakery
                                                        1700 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Lupo's opened in 1934....
                                                    Caffe Sport opened in 1969.....

                                                    So that's a 70+ year history which existed when you visited in the 70's.

                                                    -----
                                                    Caffe Sport
                                                    574 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      My great-aunt's parents were from Sicily, and she was born in North Beach in 1920.

                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            There is a place in South San Francisco, the Garden Club, that still serves the full dinners that you described. I have not been there for a few years, but I understand that the price is still under $20 for the meal.

                                  2. re: sugartoof

                                    I wouldn't go as far as to call it "tradition," but there are subtle differences between the red sauce Italian American food found in NY and California. I'm sure you can find exceptions here and there, but in general, red sauce places on the west coast seem to have a lot less veal on the menu than your average east coast place. Outside of NY, I've also noticed a less pronounced use of oregano and a more pronounced use of sugar in sauces but YMMV. I wouldn't be surprised if the brands of mozzarella cheese, or the ratio of whole to part-skim, mozzarella cheese differs between regions of the US.

                                    Then there are the foods that were created in the northeast and which are only occasionally found in northern CA (e.g., parmesan heroes, stromboli, and garlic knots).

                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      Veal was a staple on San Francisco menus. It's actually been on the decline.

                                      You're correct about sugary sauces though... more Chef Boyardee in taste.

                                      Garlic Knots aren't an old red sauce invention, and the Stromboli arrived in the 50's, but there are some who claim it was introduced on the West Coast. Chicken, Eggplant, or Veal Parmesan were staple dishes.

                                      I'm sure you can come up with a dish absent from SF menus, but what does that prove? A menu at Sodini's Green Valley would be right at home in Little Italy, give or take the "North Beach style" pasta.