North Beach dining has a decidedly Italian flair composed of a near endless sea of sidewalk tables bustling with linen-clad waiters serving heaping plates of Italian food and bottles of wine. Away from the neon-lit strip clubs on Broadway, North Beach extends to narrow, winding streets lined with boutiques and small, intimate Italian restaurants that take no reservations. Overlooking Washington Square (the site where Marilyn Monroe wed Joe DiMaggio), the infamous Moose's watering hole and restaurant still serves San Francisco's finest, and North Beach standouts like Rose Pistola and the Stinking Rose are consistently packed on the weekends. After dinner, head to a local gelateria for ice-cream that acts like taffy or one of North Beach's many, traditional pastry shops for homemade cannolis and there's always North Beach's rocking bar scene.
Albona Ristorante Istriano
545 Francisco St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.441.1040
Italian. Chef and owner Bruno Viscovi brings a distinctive style to his interpretations of Italian cuisine at Albona Ristorante Istriano. Drawing upon influences from Slovenia and Croatia, the neighbors of his Italian hometown of Albona, this restaurant offers the only Istrian menu on the West Coast, highlighting unusual and complex flavor combinations that have earned it a place on many renowned publications’ lists of the top restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.
478 Green St., San Francisco CA 94133; 415.981.2044
Italian. A refined, breezy and romantic San Francisco dining spot, Bocce Café brings to North Beach the flavors and favorites of Italian cuisine. A full bar and an excellent wine list offer an array of libations to pair with the expertly crafted cuisine, and the desert list encourages patrons to linger after dinner savoring something sweet and enjoying the relaxing, welcoming atmosphere.
Brandy Ho's Hunan Food
217 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.788.7527
Chinese. An entertaining landmark restaurant in the San Francisco dining scene, Brandy Ho’s Hunan Food has remained a neighborhood favorite since 1980. This must-visit restaurant uses the freshest available ingredients (no MSG, artificial chemicals or flavor enhancers are used) to prepare the peasant style of food found in China’s Hunan region. The distinctive, robustly flavored dishes can be as spicy or as mild as any patron’s palate requires, and there are numerous options for both meat-eaters and vegetarians.
373 Broadway, San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.393.9000
Contemporary American. Known for his eclectic, post-modern cuisine, Daniel Patterson's highly celebrated Coi is a one-of-kind San Francisco restaurant. Drawing inspiration for New York's WD-50 and Chicago's Alinea, Coi creates a menu that challenges and pleasures the sense with boundary pushing but delicious culinary creations like a stew of morel mushrooms and nettles with oloroso sherry cream and toasted almonds and ocean trout with yuzu, scarlet turnips, Bloomsdale spinach, and preserved lemon.
504 Broadway, San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.982.6223
Italian. Immortalized in Bullitt with Steve McQueen’s statement, “let’s go to Enrico’s,” Enrico’s has been a San Francisco sidewalk café and institution since 1958. Italian-American cuisine is served up in a richly stylish atmosphere that oscillates between breezy and romantic to suit any occasion, from impromptu lunches with friends to intimate dates. A fantastic wine list and Friday night live music performances only add to the appeal of this North Beach dining favorite.
Figaro Ristorante Italiano
414 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.398.1300
Italian. With a long history in North Beach, San Francisco's Little Italy, Figaro Ristorante is a casual and kitschy San Francisco Italian restaurant specializing in gnocchi, Italy's famous potato dumplings. The heated outdoor patio is a romantic spot for Italian-style, street side dining.
2237 Mason St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.986.1886
Italian. America’s oldest Italian Restaurant, Fior d’Italia has been serving impressive preparations of Northern Italian cuisine since 1886. The casually elegant space evokes a timeless appeal, welcoming patrons for any occasion, whether it’s a business lunch or a romantic dinner. This restaurant is also walking distance from Fisherman’s Wharf, the Financial District and the site of the popular Beach Blanket Babylon.
Horizon Restaurant & Lounge
498 Broadway, San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.576.1118
American. The acclaimed Horizon Restaurant & Lounge elevates the burger to gourmet status in a sleek modern setting. While dining at this stylish restaurant, choose from options like Kobe beef, Colorado lamb or all-natural chicken for the centerpiece ingredient of your burger, then gussy it up with ingredients like apple wood smoked bacon or Portobello mushrooms. The menu also features other delicious entrees, indulgent salads and creative appetizers. This remarkable restaurant and lounge in San Francisco is 4,000 square feet, with a 70-foot black marble wraparound bar staffed by award-winning bartenders.
701 Union St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.402.0011
French. Intimate and stylish with burgundy walls and rich, dark wood tables, Iluna Basque is a North Beach dining gem. The menu showcases a fusion of French and Spanish cuisines, with a large selection of shareable small plates (like plums wrapped in bacon, mini lamb burgers and seared tuna with bleu des Basque sauce), as well as hearty entrees. Finish the evening with a desert wine or chocolate fondue, or simply indulge in one of the creative cocktails or excellent martinis.
Joe DiMaggio's Italian Chophouse
601 Union St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.421.5633
Italian. A classic North Beach dining experience, Joe DiMaggio’s Italian Chophouse satisfies with excellent service and reliably delicious Italian cuisine. From the creative starters to the hearty pastas, the pizzettas to the perfectly cooked chophouse favorites and robust entrees, the menu delivers an impressive array of options. Cultivating a fully rounded dining “experience,” the timeless interior of the restaurant features an awe-inspiring collection of memorabilia from the 1930s and a distinctly refined appeal.
Joey & Eddie's
1652 Stockton, San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.989.7800
Italian. A throwback to classic New York hangouts, Joey & Eddie’s has a casual appeal that pairs perfectly with the home-cooking style of Italian and Italian-American comfort food classics. Shrimp scampi, chicken parmesan, pork chops with vinegar peppers, spaghetti and meatballs… the menu reads like an archive of tasty, familiar favorites.
1548 Stockton St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.956.3211
Italian. Mangarosa, meaning “pink mango” in Portuguese, is reinventing Italian cuisine with a dose of Brazilian flair. The creative fare arrives in fragrant portions in the exotic dining room, and the already-chic atmosphere comes to life with upbeat music. A Master Sommelier-crafted wine list competes with a great list of signature cocktails for patrons’ affection.
Michelangelo Ristorante & Caffe
579 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.986.4058
Italian. Michelangelo Ristorante & Caffe is a casually elegant North Beach dining spot designed for everything from lively dates to get-togethers with friends and family. The lengthy menu of classic Italian fare crafted from freshly caught seafood, perfectly ripened veggies, fresh cheeses and quality meats. The chef’s careful and creative use of Italian spices and sauces make this a distinctly tasty dining spot.
North Beach Restaurant
1512 Stockton St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.392.1700
Italian. A critically acclaimed Italian restaurant in North Beach, North Beach Restaurant is undeniably worthy of the many accolades it has received. A fun and well-posed wait staff serves dishes crafted true to Tuscan traditions, and the phenomenal wine list delivers with an almost unfair selection of tempting pairing options. The bright atmosphere is suitable for everything from dates to friendly get-togethers.
431 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.591.0900
Italian. For more than seven years, Panta Rei has been earning a place in the hearts of San Franciscans. This North Beach restaurant offers traditional Roman cuisine backed by an extensive wine list. The full bar and list of specialty cocktails encourages guests to linger a little longer in the inviting, lively atmosphere.
1630 Powell St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.646.0018
South American. A seductive, creative little restaurant housed in a landmark location in North Beach, Peña Pachamama seems glows with the appeal of a hidden gem. South American cuisine prepared with organic ingredients arrives at the stylish tables, pleasing the palates of diners as they take in Coit Tower views through the windows of the two upstairs dining rooms.
659 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.397.7355
Italian. Piazza Pellegrini defines itself in the world of North Beach Italian restaurants with a warm, convivial atmosphere and home style Italian cooking. Traditional recipes prepared with the freshest ingredients bring house-made pasta dishes and comforting favorites to the menu. Al fresco dining on the sidewalk adds to the charm, and a welcoming wine bar shows Piazza Pellegrini’s appreciation of fine wines.
641 Vallejo St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.829.7312
Italian. A casual and relaxing North Beach Italian restaurant, Pulcinella defines itself as a pizzeria Napoletana. The menu is comprised of authentic Italian pizzas and classic dishes, with centerpiece ingredients like creamy mozzarella, 16 month Parma prosciutto, delicately spiced rack of lamb, hormone free filet mignon, fresh cherry tomatoes, Italian sausage and fresh seafood.
532 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.399.0499
Italian. Ligurian (we'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.
Steps of Rome Caffe
348 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.397.0435
Italian. A casual café in San Francisco, Steps of Rome Caffe blends the comfort of a coffee shop with the charm of an Italian restaurant. Pizzas, pastas, salads, paninis and classic Italian entrees populate the menu, and a selection of Italian deserts awaits those craving something indulgent. This café is also notable for it’s espresso drinks and European atmosphere, complete with Italian football on the screens.
Steps of Rome Trattoria
362 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.986.6480
Italian. Homemade gnocchi, lamb chops, signature Italian dishes alive with fusion flair and an excellent wine selection combine to make Steps of Rome Trattoria in San Francisco a local favorite. Named “Best Italian” in 2004 by SF Weekly readers, this charming, casually elegant trattoria is suitable for any sort of occasion, from friendly dinners to first dates.
The Stinking Rose
325 Columbus, San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.781.7673 x1
Californian. A world-famous North Beach restaurant, the unmistakable Stinking Rose is where garlic is elevated from fragrant stagehand to full-blown star. Forty-clove garlic chicken, porterhouse pork chop with a sweet garlic relish, garlic filet mignon chili, whole Dungeness crab roasted in garlic sauce, and halibut with cherry tomatoes & roasted garlic cloves are just a few of the uniquely delicious dishes that populate the menu. Not everything here repels vampires though – a few select dishes are lighter on the garlic, and there is a full bar offering great wines and garlic-free cocktails.
1701 Powell St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.291.9268
Japanese. A small North Beach sushi restaurant, Sushi Hunter packs its cozy confines regularly with patrons gearing up to OD on sushi courtesy. This restaurant is famous for its all-you-can-eat sushi and special plates menu, which features everything from appetizers to special sushi roles. The regular menu is a whopping 10 pages, with hundreds of creative sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine options. The quality of the fish is excellent, and the gyoza are not to be missed.
1800 Mason St. San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.982.5728
Italian. Photomontage walls, old-fashioned linoleum and hand-painted china give this North Beach restaurant a cozy, grand maternal 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.
Vicoletto Ristorante & Wine Bar
550 Green St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.433.5800
Italian. Inspiration drawn from all Italian regions is visible in the delicious Italian cuisine served at Vicoletto Ristorante & Wine Bar. This North Beach Italian restaurant offers 40 wines by the glass, as well as a carefully crafted selection of half-bottles, for pairing. Rich, earthy tones meet minimalist style in the dining room, creating an atmosphere that blends casual and elegant for a pleasant dining experience.
Washington Square Bar & Grill
1707 Powell St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.433.1188
Californian. Since 1973, the Washington Square Bar & Grill has been a local favorite for great food, live music and a bustling ambiance. Italian brasserie cuisine takes the lead on the menu, with the occasional Californian- or French-influenced dish adding a little something new. Live jazz piano is featured seven nights a week, and Saturdays and Sundays boast jazz brunches.