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Enotecas are popular wine libraries or wine bars in Italy where locals socialize over good wine and food. Located in the Lower Haight, Uva Enoteca is a humble eatery with a rustic and homely ambiance. The interiors perfectly complement the food, with marble counter tops, brick walls and red cedar tabletops and proves to be a blend of earthy tones and modern charm. Traditional Italian cheeses like the ubriaco, tallegio, cremosina and high quality meats like bresaola, coppa and porchetta dominate the menu. You will also find a range of fresh dishes and antipasti, thin-crust pizzas and gourmet pastas that bear Italian origins with the chef's signature twists. The dining experience is incomplete without the classic desserts and bespoke wines which are served in traditional quartinos.
Delfina is tiny but very popular, which generally means it is packed and quite loud inside. Luckily, you will not need to say much except, "This is really good!" and "I would like another order of this," both of which can be conveyed with hand gestures and facial expressions. Seafood dishes are the highlights of the menu. So are the pastas, risottos and vegetarian specialties. Save room for dessert, which features the awe-inspiring Panna Cotta that is a homemade religious experience. The service is terrific.
Zero Zero offers its California take on Neapolitan tradition from the upstart SoMa district, treating veritable hordes of diners to expertly crafted Italian cuisine ranging from antipasti to pasta to pizza and more. Named for the ultra-fine flour used to recreate the satisfying crunch of Neapolitan dough, every ingredient at Zero Zero is stringently selected in order to assure these pizzas stay true to their inspiration. San Marzano tomatoes are simmered with Sicilian sea salt by a rabbelrous band of sauce-laden cooks while the house-made mozzarella that tops the majority of Zero Zero's rotating signature creations is stretched by hand daily. Of course, this punctilious pizzeria makes some radical departures from convention, adding an extra 30 seconds to the stringent minute and a half cooking time demanded by Neapolitan guidelines, creating a more substantial dough which head chef and certified pizzaiolo Bruce Hill asserts is preferred by American eaters. From the rave reviews, Hill seems to be right. Of course, this is to say nothing of Zero Zero's selection of innovative crudo, antipasti and pasta options which draw inspiration from the fresh local produce provided by Zero Zero's dedicated vendors, and are deserving of an entirely separate review. Respecting tradition while incorporating local flavors and maintaining the interplay between Italian and Californian cuisines, Zero Zero is an absolute must-stop for San Francisco visitors and pizza aficionados.
Amarena embodies the understated yet sophisticated tastes of its clientele. The corner-street restaurant invites guests into a warm and intimate ambiance that's reminiscent of a quintessential trattoria in Italy. It prides itself on daily-fresh homemade pasta and incorporates exotic flavors. Tuck into lasagna, ravioli di zucca or spaghetti with clams, parsley and extra virgin olive oil. Delicious small plates like bruschetta della casa, souffle of polenta served with sage and parmigiano reggiano sauce, and mains like veal scaloppini and chicken breast stuffed with cranberries and ricotta cheese represent the menu. Complement your meal with an affordable selection of Italian and Californian wines and sign off with classical tiramisu or creme brulee.
For his second venture in San Francisco, chef and restaurateur Tony Gemignani re-visits the 1920s prohibition era and comes out with a themed eatery with exposed red bricks, beautiful mahogany bar and red leather booths as its decor. So much is its association with that era, that the name itself is borrowed from the era's most notorious mafia families. However, just like any great restaurant in the making, the center-piece here is the food, which comprises Chicago-style pizzas that are served in deep dish, stuffed, cracker-crust, and cast-iron deep dish style. The restaurant's most prized dish is the Quattro Forni, prepared so extensively, that the chef swears to serve it only 20 times a day. Complementing your meal is the excellent selection of close to 100 whiskeys. So be it with your date, or a group of friends, Capo's is an ideal dining retreat for all.
Local publications are always suggesting that tourists drop by here for at least a quick bite. Prize-winning columnist Herb Caen talked about this place with the highest regard, encouraging you to visit and enjoy every bite of your hearty meals. This is Firenze By Night, the restaurant serving some of the best Italian treats. A peek into the kitchen will have you wondering what those countless beads of potato are going to turn into, until you realize this is what everyone is buzzing about: gnocchi! These melt-in-your-mouth dumplings are served in a creamy tomato sauce with a variety of toppings. Other specialties to try out include pappardelle Toscana, capon stuffed with fontina and prosciutto and the wonderful Bistecca alla Fiorentina. A full bar menu is available with a great selection of wines.
From an inside or outside table, guests at Calzone's can monitor the goings-on of wild North Beach while dining on wood-fired pizzas or creative crepes. The atmosphere is relaxed, loud and happy. The crowd is made up of locals who come back for a great time, and tourists wishing that this was their local trattoria. Signature items include (of course) enormous calzones, wood-fired Pizza, and angel hair pasta with assorted shellfish. The wait staff is personable and quick.
Caffe Sport is a popular North Beach establishment patronized by celebrities, tourists and locals. The restaurant is vibrant and artistic. Majolica tiles and brightly-colored paint cover tables, benches and walls. Folklore-inspired knick-knacks hang to the left and to the right. It specializes in Sicilian cuisine, offering a variety of pasta and seafood dishes. The pasta is topped with gourmet goodies like Italian cheeses, shrimp, scallops, lobster, zucchini and garlic. With seafood stew, steamed mussels and chilled crab salad available, fish lovers will have a hard time deciding what to order.
Lupa Trattoria is as good as it gets for Italian food in the region. It is an authentic Italian trattoria that uses the freshest of ingredients and seasonal specialties. The mastermind behind this restaurant is Chef Stefano Coppola, whose wholesome approach to cooking comes from his hometown of Rome. The restaurant has two menus; a regular one and a special menu of antipasta, pasta, soup and the main course. Sink your teeth into the agnello al balsamico: the grilled rack of lamb with mashed potato, baby carrots and spinach.
This eatery has been critically acclaimed as one of the best restaurants in San Francisco. Radiating a hip and fun neighborhood restaurant feeling, it makes both regulars and first-timers feel at home. The dining room is cozy and the atmosphere is low key. The best dishes are relatively simple Italian recipes that highlight quality ingredients. Try the tagliolini tossed with shrimp, tomato and arugula, the gnocchi and the tasty appetizers. For desserts, treat yourself to a bowl of rich Italian gelato with whipped cream and an espresso. The wine list features Californian and Italian selections of varying prices.
Tucked away between two buildings in upscale Presidio Heights, Sociale is an intimate Tuscan restaurant. Black and white photographs adorn the interiors and a petite bar makes for a comfortable yet sophisticated ambiance. While you're here, try the portobello mushrooms stuffed with chewy, herby sausage bits or the pasta swirled with pesto and sauteed vegetables. The wines on offer go wonderfully with the cuisine, and to complete your dining experience, go for the hot honey-glazed donuts served with a vanilla gelato shake. Once you have visited, you will see why despite its small size, Sociale is big on popularity!