When dining out in San Francisco, you will find that you have many options. Almost every type of cuisine is available, so there is something to suit all tastes. A popular option is Italian food, and Italian restaurants generally have menus that have food options for everyone, regardless of whether they are vegetarian, meat lovers, or seafood enthusiasts. There are also options in terms of the style of the restaurants, ranging from casual pizzerias to fine dining restaurants. If you are in San Francisco and you fancy enjoying an Italian meal, the following are 20 of the best Italian restaurants in San Francisco.
As Perbacco is located on California Street in the Financial District of San Francisco, it is a popular option for business lunches. However, it is also a fantastic place for a romantic or celebratory meal in the evenings. The menu focuses on Piedmont-influenced fare. One of the highlights of the menu is the stuffed roasted meats. It is also famous for its Sugo, which is coated in tajarin noodles and cooked for five hours. There is also an excellent wine list. The customer service at this restaurant is excellent. It is open for lunch and dinner service from Monday to Friday, dinner service only on Saturdays, and it is closed on Sundays.
Located in Presidio Heights, Sociale is a restaurant that serves a rotating daily menu of Northern Italian dishes with a Californian twist. Many people miss this restaurant as it has a hidden entrance. It offers the best of both worlds as it combines sophistication with relaxation. While the dining room has a great ambiance, there is also the option to dine al fresco on the outdoor patio. There are daily specials on the menu, and these are often the best dishes to choose as they showcase the finest ingredients and the culinary traditions of Italian cuisine. Remember to save room for a dessert, as these are some of the best in San Francisco.
Quince is the sister restaurant of Cotogna, and it is the more elegant of the two. The more formal setting and the higher prices mean this three Michelin-starred restaurant is one that people tend to visit when they are celebrating a special occasion or when they fancy splashing the cash. A prix fixe tasting menu is served at Quince, and the dishes included are based on market availability and seasonality. Some examples of the types of dishes you may find on the menus include milk-fed lamb with kumquat, niçoise oil, and turnip or lobster with spring onions and black trumpet mushrooms. If the prix fixe menu is out of your reach in terms of price, then there is always the option to order from the a la carte menu. To eat from this menu, which includes dishes from the tasting menu, you will sit in the salon.
17. Seven Hills
If you are in the Russian Hill area of San Francisco, then one of the best Italian restaurant options is Seven Hills. The locals consider this restaurant the perfect place for a date due to the intimate feel of the restaurant and the atmosphere created by the romantic, dimmed lighting. The menu is predominantly made up of pasta dishes, and many of these are ideal for sharing. However, there are some non-pasta options on the menu for those who want to try something different.
According to Thrillist, one of the best casual Italian restaurants in San Francisco is Barzotta. This is a casual, counter-service Italian restaurant with an American pasta bar. This affordable option in mission has six home-made pasta dishes that rotate, along with several non-pasta dishes. Despite the casual nature of this restaurant and the affordability of its food, it has an excellent but slightly pricey wine list. Barzotto is open from 12 noon until 8 pm seven days a week, and you will find it on Valencia Street.
15. Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Those who always choose one of the pizza options when they visit an Italian restaurant should consider dining at Tony's Pizza Napoletana. This restaurant has an absurdly long list of pizzas, with options for different doughs, different cooking temperatures, and different cooking methods, not to mention the extensive choice of toppings available. The chef is happy to adapt almost anything off the menu to suit your personal tastes. You will find this restaurant in North Beach.
14. Emmy's Spaghetti Shack
If you want to enjoy a casual Italian meal, then Emmy's Spaghetti Shack offers both excellent food and a fantastic vibe. The menu predominantly consists of Italian-American classics, and the portions are plentiful. Some of the dishes you might see on the menu include eggplant parmesan and spaghetti with meatballs. There is a funky feel to the interior of this restaurant, with features such as a pinball machine, hand-drawn menus on the walls, and a fantasy horse mural. This is a great place to hang out with friends, and it is also a family-friendly option.
The Infatuation lists Altovino as one of the top Italian restaurants in San Francisco. It is a low-key restaurant in Nob Hill, which is part restaurant and part wine bar, so it has a trendy vibe. There is a fantastic and creative menu that features dishes such as 10-hour Bolognese and light bites, including their legendary oxtail-stuffed olives. Many diners enjoy a meal and then move over to the wine bar for after-dinner drinks.
You will find Locanda on Valencia Street, which is an area of San Francisco that has a lively vibe that spills into the atmosphere within the restaurant. Your choice of seating will dictate your experience in this restaurant. If you want a fun, casual experience, you should congregate around the bustling bar area. On the other hand, for a quieter or more intimate meal, you should sit in the corners or at the opposite end of the restaurant from the bar. Traditional Italian pasta dishes are the highlight of the menu.
11. La Ciccia
Located in Noe Valley, La Ciccia is a cozy restaurant on 30th Street that has the feel of a friendly gathering place. The homespun food is delicious and is served in hearty portions. Owned by Lorella Degan and Massimiliano Conti, this restaurant's ambiance is what makes it stand out from others in the area. Some examples of typical options from the menu include Sardinian flatbreads, spaghetti with cured fish roe, and baby octopus stew.
10. Montesacro Pinseria
A Roman-style pinseria, this restaurant captures the charm of Italian traditions like no other restaurant in San Francisco. The walls of the restaurant are filled with bric-a-brac and antique photographs, and there is an unusual coal oven at the rear of the restaurant that is no longer used. They serve a style of pizzas called pinsas. These are more like flatbreads with delicious toppings. It is the pinsas for which the restaurant has become well known and that have made it stand out from other pizzerias in the neighborhood.
9. Flour + Water
This is a restaurant that offers a variety of different dining experiences. On the one hand, it is a casual restaurant with a retro vibe that has affordable dishes. On the other hand, there is a pasta-tasting menu that gives you a sense of fine dining and allows you to try the different flavors of Italian cuisine. Executive chef Ryan Pollnow is at the helm of this restaurant, and he strives to constantly change the menu to introduce new ideas and retain interest from regular customers. You don't necessarily need a reservation to get a table at this restaurant, but you might have a long wait for a table if you walk in from the street.
When Delfina opened in 1998, it caused controversy because the service was informal while the food was refined. However, this is a combination that has continued to please diners as the restaurant is still going strong more than 20 years later. It has become famous in San Francisco for serving home-made pasta dishes infused with lots of flavors. The restaurant was founded by Craig and Annie Stoll, who have since opened a second restaurant around the corner.
A popular neighborhood restaurant, Fiorella is a restaurant that has combined both the Italian and the Californian cultures. At the heart of the menu are pizzas, and the options feature fresh, seasonal ingredients. Many of the other dishes on the menu are traditional Italian dishes with a modern Californian twist. Another great feature of this restaurant is its fantastic wine list.
6. Da Flora
It is easy to miss Da Flora, as it sits on a quiet corner of Columbus Avenue close to Washington Square Park. However, you should make an effort to seek it out because it is one of the top Italian restaurants in San Francisco. This restaurant was opened in 2016 by Chef Jen McMahon and her husband, Darren Lacy. They bought the restaurant after the retirement of Flora Gaspar, who founded the original restaurant on this site. The menu consists of contemporary Italian dishes made using seasonal ingredients. Some examples of dishes on the menu include manicotti with ricotta, roast pork with capers and tonnato, chanterelles and arugula-almond pesto, and braised duck leg Sugo with radicchio. The restaurant has a warm atmosphere that is welcoming and perfect for a relaxing meal.
This is the sister restaurant of Quince, which is a Michelin-starred restaurant. Although Cotogna is less formal, it is this that appeals to the masses who simply want to enjoy a delicious Italian meal in nice surroundings without the pretentiousness of a fine dining restaurant. Despite the informal nature of the restaurant, it is a nice enough place to dine out for a special occasion. The menu consists of pizzas, spit-fired meat, and house-made pasta dishes. Although the cuisine is Italian, they focus on using ingredients from local, Californian producers. There is an extensive wine list with many reasonably priced options available. You will find Cotogna on Pacific Avenue.
4. Che Fico
Old and new are combined at Che Fico, both in terms of the décor and the food served. The fresh pasta is made at the restaurant, and the pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven. It has a trendy vibe that attracts younger customers, but everyone is made to feel welcome. You will find this restaurant on Divisadero.
3. Caffe Baonecci
This trattoria was opened by a married couple who dreamed of owning a restaurant in North Beach. The menu consists of rustic Italian dishes, thin-crust pizzas, and Tuscan cuisine. This charming, family-run restaurant has a fantastic vibe that has made it a popular option amongst the North Beach locals.
Acquerello is considered the only true fine dining Italian restaurant in San Francisco. Therefore, it is a popular option for either romantic or celebratory meals. It is a formal venue with a dress code, and it is also one of the pricier places to eat in the city. The setting is stunning, as the restaurant is in a converted mortuary chapel. Chef-owner Suzette Gresham has created a modern menu inspired by traditional Italian cuisine. The presentation of the meals is stunning, and there is an impressive wine list. This restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the best Italian restaurant in San Francisco is A16. This restaurant has been open since 2004, and Shelley Lindgren is at the helm. It is set on the marina, and it has won multiple accolades. The menu is inspired by both Southern Italian cuisine and Northern Californian fare. Other than the exquisite food, the impressive wine list is another reason to visit this restaurant.
Written by Dana Hanson
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