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recommendations for BEST Italian restaurant in North Beach [San Francisco]

Hope to celebrate a 60th birthday with a friend, what would be best Italian restaurant in North Beach. thanks all... Stacey

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  1. What does your friend consider to be "Italian?" Is s/he looking for any particular kinds of dishes or atmosphere? We might steer you wrong if your friend is looking for pizza and gets sent to a place specializing in seafood.

    Some things you can get in that area are modern California Italian and pizza, traditional SF specialties (e.g., cioppino ot local fish), red sauce Italian American, foods from Istria, Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Chicago pizza, NY pizza, Roman pizza, etc. Which do you think she'd find most appealing?

    1. Any compelling reason to make it North Beach? The best Italian places are elsewhere.

      1. If you want to hang out in North Beach, places like Ideale, North Beach Restaurant, Original Joe's, and Rose Pistola are OK. But bear in mind that the best Italian restaurants are not in North Beach. The SF Chronicle's top-100 restaurant list has over 20 Italian places on it and not a single one is in North Beach. The closest, geographically, would probably be Cotogna and Quince. Personally, for Italian food, I'd just go to Perbacco in the Financial District.

        7 Replies
        1. re: nocharge

          I prefer Da Flora over Perbacco. While the pastas at Perbacco can be outstanding, Perbacco is weak in meats and desserts. To the point where I stopped ordering them.

          In the January/February timeframe, I love the radicchio salad with egg and honey that sometimes appears on Da Flora's menu and the Dungeness crab tagliatelle. Winter is a great time for my favorite chocolate shortbread mascarpone sandwich cookies since summer fruit is not in season.

          My favorites for meat at Da Flora are the duck livers and the lamb shank, the livers are almost always on the menu.

          1. re: felice

            Perbacco's braised meats are fantastic, though I rarely get them except in the agnolotti dal Plin becaise the salumi, raw meat, seafood dishes, and cheese plate are so good.

            1. re: felice

              What pastas do you find to be outstanding at Perbacco?

              I tried it about a year ago - had the Tajarin, Agnolotti dal Plin and Pappardelle and didn't come away impressed.

              1. re: Jon914

                Whose pastas are you comparing Perbacco's with? I find the agnolotti dal Plin reliably great, though I'm not always in the mood for such a rich dish.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I haven't had another Tajarin, so I judged it on its own merits. The pasta part was fine if a little more cooked than I'd like (ramen-like I'd say), but the sugo lacked depth of flavor. One of my favorite renditions of bolognese (if that's a close enough dish) is the one at Bottega - simple but flavorful.

                  The agnolotti dal plin was good, but I enjoyed the version I had at Scarpetta even more (as well as their duck-foie agnolotti). But you are right to say that this is a rich dish, and I generally don't enjoy stuffed pastas as much.

                  On the bright side, I did enjoy the salumi platter a lot.

                  If I do go for Italian again in the city, I'd like to give Cotogna a try. The pictures look promising and in line with what I enjoy.

                2. re: Jon914

                  My favorite is the tortelli di zucca, which is seasonally available. Otherwise, I'll order the tajarin or pappardelle. The tortelli di zucca is pretty special, whereas the others are great but could be just as good at a handful of other bay area restaurants, such as Cotogna.

                  In comparison to the Italian versions at the best places recommended on the Chowhound Italy board, the tortelli di zucca at Perbacco is close, whereas the agnolotti at Perbacco doesn't come as close in both flavor and texture.

                  I have only tasted the seafood from friends' plates (it's been good), and agree that Perbacco has great cheese. But I don't order salumi there because I prefer well-sourced Italian over well-made American versions. This is not really a shortcoming of the restaurant (it applies to Adesso and Boccalone), but a personal preference. I have tried the salumi at all three places and was not swayed. This is most true with lardo and nduja.

                  As for the raw meat dishes, I loved the carne cruda I had in Italy and did not think the version at Perbacco measured up. The meat didn't have the same flavor (Italian cows vs American cows?), and the addition of all the other ingredients was distracting. By the same reasoning, I would prefer a great carne cruda over a great steak tartare. Which reminds me, I still need to try the tartare at Bouli Bar to see if it changes my thinking on this.

            2. it does depend on styles.

              for incredible seafood, sotto mare.

              for really could east coast italian-american, capo's

              for great thin crust pizza, baonecci

              for sicilian square pizza, goldenboy.

              1. I liked Macaroni and Franchino, both for the food and the fact that they were family businesses, with the proprietor on the premises. It's a different vibe than the fancy places.

                I also like the little Roman place on Green. What is it? Vicoletto.

                1. Love the food at Da Flora, although the atmosphere is a bit sedate.

                  The best sweet potato gnocchi and foccacia in town though!

                  Looks like they are closed until 1/21/14:


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Civil Bear

                    Flora, herself, can seem a little gruff, but we really like her. That gnocchi is so tasty and light; it just melts in your mouth. We’ve had interesting wines too. Flora insisted that we eat at The Elephant in Brixen on one of our yearly trips to Italy, which we finally accomplished. She is from Austria and learned to cook in Venice, so she went through Brixen every time she went home. We recommended Da Flora to some friends and on their first visit they ordered a soufflé for desert. When it didn’t arrive at the end of their meal, they assumed she had forgotten and got up to leave, but Flora ordered them back to their seats. Now, Mary Beth knows the names of all their pet livestock since they have returned so often. This is our favorite in North Beach. Sotto Mare is good for san dabs, cioppino and clam chowder.

                  2. I also suggest Ideale or Original Joe's.
                    Some of the best Italian food in the city can be found a short walk from North Beach at Cotogna.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Agrippa

                      Cotogna is really excellent but it is pretty deafening at night, in case that is a consideration. For some reason, not as loud at lunch, go figure.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Sundays are quiet at Cotogna. They do a prix-fixe instead of their regular menu.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Good to know -- we looked at the prix fixe trip before last and didn't love it but next time...

                      1. Tosca is awesome...not the typical Italian restaurant in North Beach though.