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Travel to San Francisco: Finding a Great San Francisco Italian Restaurant

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Acquerello
1722 Sacramento St.
San Francisco, CA 94109-3619
Phone: 415/567-5432

This elegant San Francisco Italian restaurant -- white linens, fresh flowers, exquisite china -- is one of the most romantic spots in town. Both the service and the food are exemplary, and the menu covers the full range of Italian cuisine. The gnocchi, especially pumpkin gnocchi with sage and truffles, and green onion fettuccine with crab and wine are memorable, as are the fish dishes. Chef-owner Suzette Gresham is responsible for the kitchen's high standards, while co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini oversees a superb list of Italian vintages. Price $25 - $34, Cuisine - Italian.

Antica Trattoria
2400 Polk St.
San Francisco, CA 94109-1603
Phone: 415/928-5797

The dining room is stark in the San Francisco Italian restaurant, with off-white walls, dark wood, a partial view of the kitchen, and a strong sense of restraint. The food is characterized by the same no-nonsense quality. A small menu delivers classic plates such as fennel with blood oranges and red onions, beef carpaccio, farro pasta with Bolognese sauce, monkfish wrapped in pancetta, and venison medallions matched with wilted greens. The Italian wine list is fairly priced, and the genial service is polished but not overly formal. Price $15 - $24, Cuisine – Italian.

Baldoria Restaurant
2162 Larkin Street,
San Francisco
CA 94109 (Russian Hill)

Close to Fisherman's Wharf, but a far cry from over-priced Italian food and wines, Baldoria is a small, neighborly San Francisco Italian restaurant with fresh homemade pastas (all at neighborly low prices) and a stellar wine list that's priced more like a carafe of house wine in Naples than a bottle of Napa wine in Russian Hill.

Bruno's
2389 Mission at 20th St.
(Castro/Noe Valley)

Hip, cool and funky, this Mission District restaurant is a San Francisco Italian restaurant icon that has reinvented itself more than once. Its lively bar, young crowd and musical acts are as much attractions as is its retro Italian-American cuisine decor. Menu includes pastas, pizzas and Southern Italian classics with contemporary side dishes like watercress, chard, broccoli rabe and fennel mashed potatoes.

Buca di Beppo - San Francisco
855 Howard St.,
San Francisco
CA 94103 (South of Market)

A kitschy place for Italian immigrant flavor and food in South of Market near the Moscone Convention Center and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Carafes of wine keep flowing (not the vintner's choicest, but certainly the cheapest) and the menu covers the family style favorites like garlic bread, ravioli, hearty pennes, cheesy lasagna and meaty sauces. The atmosphere is boisterous and fun, with red gingham tablecloths and a veritable explosion of Italian-American paraphernalia adorning the walls. Buca di Beppo also has a full bar and is an excellent San Francisco Italian restaurant for large groups and birthday parties.

Buca Giovani
Since 1972, Buca Giovani has been an Old World San Francisco Italian restaurant in North Beach, serving Tuscan food and hailed as one of the most romantic restaurants in San Francisco. Ah, amore.

Capp's Corner
1600 Powell St.
San Francisco, CA 94133-2814
Phone: 415/989-2589

This is one of North Beach 's last family-style trattorias, a pleasantly down-home spot where the men at the bar still roll dice for drinks and diners sit elbow to elbow at long oilcloth-covered tables. The fare is bountiful, well-prepared five-course dinners -- not award winning, but a meal here will mean you'll still be able to send your children to college. The osso buco and roast lamb are good choices for the main. For calorie counters or the budget-minded, a simpler option is a tureen of minestrone, salad, and pasta. Price $15 - $24, Cuisine –Italian.

Delfina
3621 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110-1531
Phone: 415/552-4055

Delfina is always hopping. Indeed, within several months of opening in 1999, success forced chef-owner Craig Stoll to take over a neighboring storefront to accommodate the throngs. The loyal crowd comes for the simple yet exquisite Italian fare found on a daily changing menu: grilled fresh sardines; orecchiette with broccoli rabe and chickpeas; halibut riding atop olives and braised fennel. If calories are no concern, try the profiteroles packed with coffee ice cream and dressed with a lavalike chocolate sauce. Price $15 - $24, Cuisine – Italian.

Il Fornaio - San Francisco
1265 Battery St
San Francisco
CA 94111 (Financial District / Embarcadero)

In the Financial District's Levi's Plaza, Il Fornaio is a chain restaurant that breaks away from the chain gang with rustic, Northern Italian fare. The pastas and wood-fired pizzas and breads are standouts at this very business lunch friendly San Francisco Italian restaurant (Il Fornaio means oven in Italian after all).

Kuletos
221 Powell St.,
San Francisco
CA 94102 ( Downtown/Union Square )

You're starving, you're shopping your buns off at Macy's, Nieman's and Ann Taylor. What to do? Hit the bustling trattoria filled to the rafters with gorgeous people, killer decor--lots of spun copper and blown-glass tchochkas--and serious pastas (delicious and affordable). Also to-die-for raviolis and tons of olive oily foccacia. There's a smart little espresso annex next door too, where you can load up on pastries.

Palio d'Asti
640 Sacramento Street,
San Francisco
CA 94111 (Financial District / Embarcadero)
Italian

Puccini & Pinetti
129 Ellis Street,
San Francisco
CA 94102 ( Downtown/Union Square )

Energetic and inexpensive, Puccini & Pinetti is an Italian grill and American Bar just off Union Square. The pastas range from light to rustic and the menu also offers wood fired pizzas, salads, paninis, hearty meat and seafood dishes and decadent desserts. The ambiance is one of San Francisco 's most kid-friendly restaurants (kids can make their own pizzas and choose from a special kid's menu).

Rose's Cafe
2298 Union St.,
San Francisco
CA 94123 (Cow Hollow)

Casual and quick, Rose's Cafe has an excellent lunch menu as well as a dinner menu popular with the Cow Hollow crowd. For lunch the nicoise salad is perfectly dressed and for dinner the roasted chicken is a must, as well as lamb shanks and salmon. The heated outdoor seating is a delightful rarity in San Francisco.

Rose Pistola
532 Columbus Ave.,
San Francisco
CA 94133-2802 ( North Beach )

Ligurian (I'd have to show you on a map, but it's in Northern Italy ) cuisine, with touches of the North Beach locale that's given it continued success. Rich cioppino (a classic San Fran-talian seafood stew), earthy fava beans and fennel accents make this informal classic a creative and rewarding respite from the Columbus Avenue shuffle.

Sociale
3665 Sacramento (at Spruce),
San Francisco CA (Laurel Heights)

With the exception of sushi houses, San Francisco Italian restaurants are probably the most common venture for restaurateurs in this city. Sometimes they're good; often, they're not; and then, every once and again, we encounter a true gem like Sacramento Street 's Sociale. Located in a quiet courtyard in the tony Laurel Heights district, this cozy trattoria/wine bar offers an unbeatable combination of friendly service, fine wines, and new-school Italian fare that could turn a person off Bolognese sauce forever. The olive fritte -- fried olives stuffed with mozzarella -- are a must. From there, we'd advise dining in the Italian style. Split a pasta -- perhaps the pappardelle with braised duck and porcini mushrooms -- then follow it with the superior brick-roasted chicken. One must have sfingi (a Sicilian doughnut served with vanilla gelato). If you really want to go whole hog, finish with a dessert wine, then wonder why more new San Francisco Italian restaurants aren't as spectacular as Sociale. (San Francisco Weekly).

Tiramisu
28 Belden Place
San Francisco
CA 94104 (Financial District / Embarcadero)

Tucked away in a secluded alley in downtown San Francisco, Tiramisu is a small, Northern Italian style bistro known for its namesake, heavenly layers of expresso-drenched lady fingers. The pasta is homemade and the menu changes daily to offer the freshest seafood available.

Trattoria Contadina
1800 Mason Street,
San Francisco
CA 94133 ( North Beach )

Photo-montage walls, old-fashioned linoleum and hand-painted china give this North Beach restaurant a cozy, grandmaternal feel. Welcoming and neighborly (the Cable Car line connecting downtown San Francisco and Fisherman's Wharf passes right outside), the Trattoria Contadina (opened in 1983) has a lively mood and simple and eclectic menu of traditional pastas, grilled meats and seafood.

Zingari
501 Post St.,
San Francisco
CA 94102 (Civic Center/Van Ness)

One block from Union Square, Zingari is an inexpensive San Francisco restaurant for Northern Italian cuisine and seafood, as well as offering live jazz and gypsy violinists (Zingari means "gypsy" in Italian) on Wednesday and Saturdays. Like its namesake, Zingari is relaxed and charming San Francisco restaurant with simple and satisfying dishes, as well as a steal of an early bird pre-fixe menu for $30 from 5:30 to 6:30pm.


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