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20th Anniv. Scrapped the Italian idea and still need a romantic restaurant but not French [San Francisco]

acervoni Sep 5, 2013 04:11 PM

Thanks to all who applied to my last thread. Since we are CT foodies and both have Italian grandmothers, we decided to scrap the idea of an Italian restaurant for our Anniversary. Can you please recommend a romantic restaurant that isn't French in San Francisco? Need to keep it under $35 an entree since the majority of our budget will be spent in Napa the four nights prior to being in SF. Thank you so much for your help!

  1. Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2013 04:28 PM

    You might want to look at Gitane.

    Some suggestions in this recent anniversary dinner thread though most are Italian.

    1. Ruth Lafler Sep 5, 2013 05:05 PM


      8 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler
        Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2013 05:16 PM

        Aziza's menu looks pretty Frenchy to me these days.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          Ruth Lafler Sep 5, 2013 06:45 PM

          Frenchy is not French.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            vulber Sep 8, 2013 06:01 PM

            agreed - i can't think of a single item on aziza's menu that would be found in the same form on a french menu

            1. re: vulber
              Robert Lauriston Sep 8, 2013 07:57 PM

              Sure, but the French influence seems to have pushed the Moroccan way into the background.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                mariacarmen Sep 9, 2013 01:05 AM

                no, i disagree. you still go there and think "moroccanish" flavors, as opposed to french. i'm not a fan, anyway. i found both mostly short changed. plus decor is disneylandish, plus service was sub-par. just my experience.

                1. re: mariacarmen
                  Thomas Nash Sep 9, 2013 10:14 AM

                  Went to Aziza last night (before it moves and tries to go even more upscale and touristy à la Slanted Door). Totally agree with mariacarmen's comments.

                  Very pricey, sometimes to a ridiculous extent ($15 for a parsimonious plate of spreads, and $3 more for extra flatbread if you are dumb enough to order it, $24 for a tasty duck confit basteeya).

                  Trying sophisticated modern French type cooking techniques. Sometimes successful as was the Cornish Game Hen ($27), sometimes well executed but not thrilling (Squab, $33). Both had very interesting Moroccan flavoring. A tasting menu for $99.

                  I think the chef is good, competent, but not in the league with Manresa, Coi, Commonwealth, etc. Benu much better. Our dinner price with cheapest wine on list ($44) was around $150 with smallish tip for 2, about the same as Delfina, which is far less pretentious and orders of magnitude better.

                  And, BTW, terrible clueless service, bad pacing, ugly decor (presumably will improve downtown)...

                  Delusions of grandeur.

                  1. re: Thomas Nash
                    mariacarmen Sep 9, 2013 10:40 AM

                    yup, yup and yup. i, too, did really like the duck confit basteeya.

        2. re: Ruth Lafler
          Cynsa Sep 6, 2013 09:45 AM


        3. w
          W42 Sep 5, 2013 05:07 PM

          While it was my reply, I'd hate to turn you away from Italian entirely as there are some good possibilities listed in your earlier thread.

          But that said, exploring cuisines you can't get at home is always fun, so take a look at this Eater list for a start (I don't think all 38 places are the best of their kind, but it's a good overview of the diversity in the Bay Area):


          3 Replies
          1. re: W42
            Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2013 05:17 PM

            The only places on the Eater 38 that seem romantic to me are Absinthe (French) and Perbacco (Italian).

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              mariacarmen Sep 6, 2013 06:07 PM

              Perbacco is not romantic to me at all - too much corporate-dress.

              1. re: mariacarmen
                Robert Lauriston Sep 7, 2013 08:48 AM

                I haven't seen that except for the after-work crowd in the bar. In the restaurant I see a typical downtown SF mix of locals and tourists, some dressed up, some casual. Usually we go on Friday or Saturday night, I suppose on weeknights there are probably more business people.

          2. t
            Thomas Nash Sep 5, 2013 05:22 PM

            You should consider that SF "Italian" is really California Italian and is very different from anything you get in CT or New England or NY. The restaurants suggested are really very SF.

            Having said that, for romantic, expensive, big views, etc. you might consider Waterbar. Cheaper, less fancy, excellent food, Bar Tartine (recently described as Cal-Hungarian-Asian)... or Range. Both in the Mission. Or Zuni.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Thomas Nash
              Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2013 05:30 PM

              Bar Tartine's one of my favorites, but I would not go there for a special occasion.

              I've celebrated many at Zuni. For special occasions I ask to be seated upstairs.

              1. re: Thomas Nash
                acervoni Sep 5, 2013 06:48 PM

                Ok, cal-hungain-Asian??? What? I'll check it out.

                1. re: acervoni
                  Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2013 06:51 PM

                  Bar Tartine's a very bustling bistro kind of a place. I love it but more for a fun night out with friends than a special occasion.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Thomas Nash Sep 5, 2013 08:56 PM

                    Seems to me a special occasion should be a fun night out with a friend.

              2. r
                Rapini Sep 5, 2013 05:47 PM


                1 Reply
                1. re: Rapini
                  mariacarmen Sep 6, 2013 06:09 PM

                  i would second that.

                2. Cynsa Sep 6, 2013 09:15 AM

                  what's romantic to you and yours? not Italian/not French... intimate setting; dark, candlelight, soft music, flowers, quiet, out-of-the-way secluded?

                  The Richmond is quietly romantic-ish or not

                  South Park Cafe

                  Campton Place

                  now we've eliminated:

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Cynsa
                    RWCFoodie Sep 6, 2013 04:29 PM

                    Cynsa: Thanks for the link to The Richmond with the glowing description of great foie gras: Warning to the OP, in case you go there looking for foie gras there won't be any :-( as it is now banned in California and I wouldn't want you to be disappointed if you chose this spot based on that post...

                    1. re: RWCFoodie
                      Cynsa Sep 6, 2013 05:37 PM




                      1. re: Cynsa
                        RWCFoodie Sep 6, 2013 10:48 PM

                        Thanks Cynsa for posting these links to their menu, especially the 5 course tasting menu - what a bargain! Looks delicious...

                    2. re: Cynsa
                      Cynsa Sep 6, 2013 07:18 PM

                      Please excuse my continued harping on 'what's romantic to you'; if it makes you feel special - happy - cojoined - evokes a special memory or place... take a moonlit walk on the beach and eat a burrito, reenact your marriage proposal, take a carriage ride along the Embarcadero, read poems and throw rose petals.

                      I like Zarzuela at 2000 Hyde Street
                      (between Union St & Allen St) for the fun of it.

                    3. steve h. Sep 6, 2013 04:03 PM


                      Michael Tusk is a talented chef. My wife and I celebrated my birthday there a few weeks ago. We ate too much, drank too much. Pricey but worth it. Consider upping the budget.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: steve h.
                        W42 Sep 6, 2013 04:18 PM

                        I think Quince is out of the OP's $35/entree price range now that they have gone exclusively to tasting menus (started Aug 1 IIRC), all of which are well over $100. Their next door casual place, Cotogna, has already been suggested and is in the right price range, but I've always thought it was way overrated and too reliant on butter in their cooking.

                        Also, for the OP's information, I really do think NYC has much better high end Italian than Quince. I live just up the street and my most recent visit was also a few weeks ago, but probably the worst. All four of us thought the food was forgettable outside of the amuses.

                        I normally don't care at all the about the service at restaurants, but this time it literally caused problems with the food: they forgot to bring a whole course, mixed up drinks a couple of times even pouring red wine into a half full glass of white, serving another course to only 3 out of the 4 of us and never brought the dish for the 4th (our food got pretty cold while we awkwardly hoped it was coming eventually). Again I'm willing to cut the staff a lot of slack as I've been before and I can't imagine my most recent experience being at all representative. But course after course made us whisper in disappointment with the taste—though I've never had anything there that was so good I wanted it again.

                        1. re: W42
                          steve h. Sep 6, 2013 04:29 PM

                          Quince is interesting. It's neither French nor Italian but influenced by both. There is no doubt that it's pricey. Service continues to be outstanding.

                          I live in Connecticut, Manhattan is our backyard. California Italian, California French is not the same as our definition.

                          I can't excuse your experience. Rather, I will offer that it's not typical.

                          A 20th anniversary should be special.

                          1. re: steve h.
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 6, 2013 04:45 PM

                            I think Quince and Aquerello both started out as Italian with French influences and got Frenchier over time. That's apparently the only way for an Italian restaurant to get a Michelin star in this town.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              steve h. Sep 6, 2013 04:56 PM

                              You may be right.

                              I haven't dined at Aquerello but I'm very familiar with the Tusk family of foods, going back to their old shop. Cotogna, in my opinion, is a home run. The pastas there remind me of the old days.

                              1. re: steve h.
                                Robert Lauriston Sep 6, 2013 04:58 PM

                                Cotogna's first-rate.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  steve h. Sep 6, 2013 05:09 PM


                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    Cynsa Sep 6, 2013 05:28 PM

                                    yes, very first rate. excellent service. loved the food and drinks.
                                    romantic? crowded and happy-noise filled with energy

                          2. re: steve h.
                            Robert Lauriston Sep 6, 2013 04:26 PM

                            Besides being over the requested price range, Quince is Frenchy Italian.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              steve h. Sep 6, 2013 04:32 PM

                              Yes, to all the above.

                          3. acervoni Sep 6, 2013 07:18 PM

                            Thank you to all who have posted. I've been doing my own research of course and have never seen so many restaurants that are exclusively "tasting menus." What if someone wanted to do a good ole fashioned Progressive? Right now, I'm looking at Gitane, Range, Commonwealth, south park, frascati, and La traviata. Although, I'm not sure any of them are what we are looking for. We may just have to up the price and give in to a multi course dinner.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: acervoni
                              W42 Sep 6, 2013 07:28 PM

                              Commonwealth is another one of those tasting menus, but regardless I like it the most out of that lot. Also. Frascati is kind of in the same vein as those Italian places you were considering earlier, but not as good (it's one of the better places in my neighborhood—it just used to be better). I haven't been to La Traviata in years, but I similarly would wonder if you excluded Delfina etc.

                              1. re: acervoni
                                Susangria Sep 6, 2013 11:32 PM

                                All pretense and elitism aside... there are very few meals in SF better than a boule of sourdough and a giant bowl of Cioppino (regular or lazy man's) at Scoma's on the wharf. Add to that a leisurely stroll through the Ferry Building farmer's market. Foodie heaven.

                                1. re: acervoni
                                  Robert Lauriston Sep 7, 2013 08:51 AM

                                  If you're considering Frascati and La Traviata, go to La Ciccia.


                                  Progressive dinners are tough in San Francisco because the good places are booked up and the waits for walk-ins are long.

                                  1. re: acervoni
                                    Ridge Sep 9, 2013 10:59 AM

                                    Have been to Range and Gitane. Both are good but Gitane is better and is a much more romantic setting. I highly recommend Gitane.

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