Best Italian restaurants in San Francisco
San Francisco is one of America’s best cities for dining. Restaurants here have a bounty of fresh seafood and local produce they use to create innovative menus that change with the seasons. And you’ll find local delicacies like Dungeness crab woven seamlessly into their preparations.
The North Beach neighborhood was once the home of most of the city’s Italian restaurants. But these days, you’ll find them in every part of town, from the Mission District to Nob Hill.
Here, listed alphabetically is our list of the best Italian restaurants in San Francisco:
1) The Italian region of Campania is noted for a flavorful cuisine that centers around tomatoes, onions, cheeses, pasta, and cured meats. A16 – named for the autoroute that runs through the region – features Campania-inspired dishes like braised pork shoulder, pasta with cauliflower and crab, or rustic duck meatballs. The starters here are especially good. Try roasted asparagus with walnut cream; house-made prosciutto with persimmons, hazelnuts, and pomegranate seeds; or creamy, rich burrata cheese with crostini. There are 40 wines – mostly Italian varietals – available by the glass, and carafes of wine are also an option. A16 is also one of the best pizza restaurants in town.
2) Located in a building that was once a chapel, Acquarello is one of the most sophisticated Italian restaurants in the Bay Area. The menu, which changes frequently, might feature contemporary Italian foods like gnocchi and Swiss chard in brown butter and sage, a grilled sea bass on warm artichoke and potato salad, or lobster panzerotti. The 500-bottle wine list has lots of great choices from Italy and California. The chocolate cake dusted with gold is worth saving room for. If you’re on a budget, the four-course tasting menu is a good value.
3) Another excellent pizza restaurant, Delfina’s is a Mission District favorite. Making the most of what’s fresh from the farm as well as locally made cheeses and naturally raised beef and lamb, Delfina’s features starters like grilled calamari and white bean salad, incredible pastas like pappardelle with braised lamb, and bistro classics like steak frites. The eclectic menu changes nightly. The heated, covered terrace is a nice spot on balmy evenings. Prices for both food and wine are very reasonable.
4) Incanto chef Chris Cosentino believes in making everything in house, from the pasta to the salumi (cured meats). And loyal fans know you can taste the difference. The cuisine here is inspired by Tuscany, so it’s simple and rich. You’ll find delicious braised meats, lots of beans, and even some offal (organ meats). Vegetarians will find delicious options too. There’s a nice selection of Italian wines, and the desserts here are better than most.
5) A family-owned North Beach trattoria, l’Osertia del Forno has a limited menu, but everything on it is delicious. First of all, there’s the delicious focaccia to tide you over until the food arrives. Then there are a few pasta dishes, a couple of daily specials – hope for the milk-braised pork – a daily roast, some polenta, and good, thin-crust pizza. It’s inexpensive, informal, and good.
6) The chef and co-owner at La Ciccia is Sardinian, and the menu here recalls the dishes he grew up with on the island. Start with the seafood salad, dressed with lemon and fresh herbs or calamari with mint and white wine. Then sink into pasta with clams, tomatoes, and saffron. or spaghetti with mullet row. The food pairs perfectly with Sardinian wines like Vermentino.
7) Dishes from the Northern Italian regions of Liguria and Piemonte dominate the menu at Perbacco. The antipasto of house-made salumi is a clear winner. Try pappardella in a ragu made with braised short ribs, veal-stuffed agnolotti in cabbage and meat sauce, or milk-braised pork shoulder. The two-story, exposed brick space is sophisticated and lively. And the wine list is excellent, but not cheap.
8) Located in a brick building in Jackson Square, Quince is one of the most elegant Italian restaurants in San Francisco. Chef Michael Tusk did stints at Chez Panisse and Oliveto, and the invention of those trend setters shines through. The best way to experience all of Quince’s delights is to invest in their five- or eight-course tasting menu. That way, you’ll get to try small portions of sensational dishes like pasta with foie gras; pork loin, belly, and sausage with chestnut puree; and veal rib chop with chanterelles and fontina cheese. This is one of the top tables in town for a celebration dinner.
5) L’Osteria del Forno
6) La Ciccia