Founded way back in 1937 and having survived the Great Depression, Original Joe's is a great place to eat. The simplicity of the meals is only outdone by the portions: the classic Flatiron Steak and Eggs is three square meals on one plate. The breakfast menu offers a good variety of omelets, along with sausage, eggs, ham, and other traditional breakfast items. The retro ambiance includes waiters in tuxedos, and hamburgers come highly recommended. With its signature red leather booths, legendary smooth cocktails, and renowned Italian American menu, Joe's has come to signify its own Northern Californian category of food and symbolizes classic Italian American comfort food at its finest.
Recommended for Italian because: Original Joe's may be loaded with tourists, but its atmosphere full of nostalgia for longstanding Italian and San Francisco traditions is wholly authentic.
Tom's expert tip: With its central location in North Beach, Original Joe's is a wonderful starting point for a long, adventurous tour of San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood!
The time and energy that North Beach Restaurant did not expend on its name, they have fully used on their atmosphere, staff training, menu and preparing an overall dining service as close to Italy that you'll find in San Francisco. Lorenzo Petroni and Bruno Orsi have worked tirelessly since 1970 to perfect their own version of Tuscan cuisine, and not just through the freshest and most authentic ingredients, but also by adding Florentine floor tiles, Carrara marble, Venetian granite, hand-crafted cherry wood paneling, and vaulted ceilings created by Italian craftsmen. If you're looking for a full-blown Italian meal, you should head straight to the North Beach Restaurant.
Recommended for Italian because: North Beach Restaurant has been serving authentic Italian wine and food in San Francisco for generations.
Tom's expert tip: North Beach Restaurant gets its wine from the award-winning Petroni Vineyards in nearby Sonoma County, which has the same kind of terroir as Italy for an authentic Italian experience.
If you want quality Italian food but don't feel like fighting the crowds - or the hills - of North Beach, consider Spiazzo Ristorante in the quaint San Francisco neighborhood of West portal. Easily accessible by MUNI, West Portal feels like a village within a city, and a night at Spiazzo can feel like a trip to simpler times. The owners know what makes a classic Italian meal: healthy portions and happy service - and the extensive wine list, featuring both domestic and Italian wines, certainly doesn't hurt. The ambiance is warm and welcoming, and the overall experience feels very much like a family meal.
Recommended for Italian because: Spiazzo has been a local favorite in the tidy West portal neighborhood for years.
Tom's expert tip: Start your meal off with the Polenta Con Salsiccia, a pleasant appetizer of a polenta base sparked by some spicy sausage.
If you're not quite sure if you want a loud and boisterous Italian experience or a more intimate, calm dining experience, then head to Trattoria. There are more famous Italian restaurants than this modest establishment, but it's hard to find a more earnest and reliable one. Start off with a caprese, then enjoy their signature Carlesimo with rigatoncelli, pancetta, porcini mushrooms, peas, sun-dried tomatoes, spicy tomato cream sauce, then finish off with tiramisu or spimone. Other restaurants serve these dishes, of course, but the sincerity of the service here and the desire to get things just right really sets this restaurant apart.
Recommended for Italian because: Pane e Vino is a nice choice if you don't feel like venturing into North Beach.
Tom's expert tip: They take their motto seriously: Lascia i problemi alla porta, or "Leave your problems at the front door." With big smiles and open hearts, this restaurant gets comfort Italian style and food just right.
Elegant and subdued, this intimate restaurant (whose name means "watercolor") exhibits artistry in both cuisine and appearance. Its serene ambiance and its vaulted, beamed ceiling evoke Acquerello's former incarnation as a chapel. Contemporary Italian dishes are the main draw, though, and a frequently-changing menu features dishes like parsley-encrusted pork loin, beef carpaccio with hearts of palm and black truffles, and tuna in a fennel-dill crust with saffron sauce. The wine list features fine Italian and California vintages. And co-owner Mr. Paterlini, a native of Bologna, has an acclaimed talent for pairing food with the ideal wines, so don't hesitate to ask for recommendations.
Recommended for Italian because: Although it's expensive, Acquerello is a fantastic choice for that special night out.
Tom's expert tip: Old-school, Italian charm pervades this whole establishment, from the crisp linens covering the tabletops to the attentive staff that won't let a wine glass go empty.
As the name would indicate, this Italian restaurant takes opera as seriously as it does cuisine. Polished woods and opera-themed art set the scene for a wealth of delicious dishes, including veal, poultry, seafood, and pasta. Expanding the options are such specialties as gnocchi, sweetbreads, parchment-baked salmon, and grilled eggplant. The family-owned place is a great destination for romantic dinners too. The convenient location near 24rth and Mission puts you right by several MUNI stops and a main BART stop, so this restaurant is accessible no matter where you're staying in San Francisco. After dinner, the never-ending energy of the Mission District is right at your feet.
Recommended for Italian because: La Traviata is an Italian alternative to the Mission fare.
Tom's expert tip: The antipasto misto is a nice way to start off your meal.
This casual French-Italian bistro is the perfect choice for a savory meal without all the fuss or gimmickry associated with some restaurants. Great food is the focus, as proven by succulent roasted chicken, duck confit, and a practiced preparation of steak frites. A small wine list is available by the bottle or glass. The space, albeit small, provides for easy interaction with other diners, a nice benefit of the cozy locality. If you're looking for a romantic night out, start off at Florio's and then wander up and down Fillmore, maybe catching some jazz at the brand new SF Jazz Center.
Recommended for Italian because: Florio is one of the most romantic spots in the Fillmore District.
Tom's expert tip: If you're on a date, the adorable outside of Florio will score you big points before you're even seated.
Simplicity and authenticity reign at this small, popular restaurant. Zinc tabletops and exotic hardwoods bear this out, as does the incomparable Italian fare with its top-notch ingredients. Treat yourself with grilled calamari salad, braised rabbit, steak frites, roasted chicken, or salmon with fresh vegetables. Although Delfina has garnered much acclaim since it premiered, the trattoria still delights with casual ambiance, friendly service and satisfyingly reasonable prices â" all boons to dining aficionados. Delfina is highly regarded not just locally but nationally, so if you have time for only one Italian meal on your trip, you can't go wrong with Delfina.
Recommended for Italian because: Delfina is a San Francisco gem, loved by locals.
Tom's expert tip: If you're hungry on a Sunday night, call and check if Delfina is offering their wonderful Sunday Supper, which usually includes their Rustichella Rigatoni in a ragu sauce, followed by a meat platter cooked in that same delicious ragu.
Sotto Mare's old-school Italian ambiance and incredibly fresh fare receive rave reviews from North Beach natives and Bay Area visitors alike. The restaurant is known for its traditional baccala, savory crab cioppino and Boston-style clam chowder, but the menu also features oysters and clams on the half shell, seafood risotto and daily fresh fish selections. Imported beer and wine pairings round out an excellent meal. Patrons can also purchase fresh fish for retail value. Sotto Mare is a wonderful example of San Francisco's bountiful bay meeting up with the Italian joy of cooking, so you'll get a healthy bite of both cultures at this memorable restaurant.
Recommended for Italian because: In a city of constant food trends, Sotto Mare has been serving quality Italian food for years.
Tom's expert tip: The Mussel/Clam Steamer combo a top choice and plenty for two people!
Perbacco is a well-respected, successful Italian restaurant in San Francisco's Financial District. Perbacco, an Italian word expressing pleasure and surprise (as well as a reference to Bacchus, the god of wine), is the perfect name for a ristorante steeped in Italian culture. Located in the city's Financial District, Perbacco is a spot trusted by everyone from big-money bankers to those tourists who are looking for an authentic Italian meal. Chef Terje has created a menu focused on the refined cuisine of Piemonte; he offers pure, ingredient-driven dishes reflecting the commitment to handcrafted food. He often visits the local farmer's markets himself to make sure he's getting the freshest locally-sourced ingredients.
Recommended for Italian because: Perbacco's attention to detail and wonderful ambiance make it a great choice for any occasion.
Tom's expert tip: Don't leave without trying their house-cured salami.