Best Italian Restaurants in San Francisco

March 20, 2018
by Zagat Staff

There’s enough excellent Italian food in San Francisco that you never have to settle for mediocre pasta. Here’s where to get the best of the best.

Italian · Polk Gulch · $$$$
Food 4.9 · Decor 4.7 · Service 4.8

"The total package" for "a special night out" , this "world-class" Polk Gulch Italian combines chef Suzette Gresham’s "divinely inspired" , "decadent" prix fixe menus with a "top-notch wine list" , all presented by an "impeccable" staff displaying "unmatched professionalism" ; despite the "substantial checks" , it's an "excellent value" , with a "beautifully serene" , "intimate" setting "in what was once a chapel" adding to the "sophisticated treat."
La Ciccia
Italian · Noe Valley · $$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.6

A "Sardinian wonder" , this Noe Valley "neighborhood treasure" is "well worth getting to" for its "incredible" , "honest" cooking (notably "sublime" seafood), matched with an "outstanding" wine list in a "pared-down" but "congenial" setting overseen by "charming" husband-and-wife owners; the "Downtown prices" are eased by the "reasonable" vinos, but the "tight quarters" "fill up quickly" so be sure to reserve.
French · Downtown · $$$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.8 · Service 4.7

"Hard to top" for "fancy dining" "at its best" , this "refined" Downtown Californian from "passionate" husband-and-wife team Michael and Lindsay Tusk "sparkles" thanks to his "superbly executed" cuisine showcasing Italian accents and a "fresh, local food ethos" , complemented by a "fabulous wine list" in "dreamy" surroundings run by a "stellar" staff; you’ll "shell out some big bucks" , but for a "special occasion" that’s "absolutely over the moon" , it’s "well worth it."
Seven Hills
Italian · Nob Hill · $$$
Food 4.7 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.5

This "delightful" Nob Hill Italian enjoys "neighborhood-gem" status thanks to "incredible pasta dishes" paired with a "well-selected" wine list and "warm" service; though what’s "intimate" to some is "tight" to others, locals say this "best-kept-not-so-secret" trattoria might just be "too popular."
Italian · Haight-Ashbury · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.1

A "nice respite" from the crowds at its sibling Gialina, this "fantastic neighborhood" Italian in Haight-Ashbury "fits the bill" for seasonally driven pizza and pasta at a moderate cost; the "friendly" staffers are the "icing on the cake" , but be aware that the "small" space "doesn't take reservations."
Italian · Downtown · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.3

"More relaxed" than its sibling Quince next door, this "remarkable" Downtown Italian from Lindsay and Michael Tusk excels thanks to "inventive, beautifully executed" pastas, wood-fired pizzas and more matched with a "rewarding" and affordable wine list that tempers the "expensive" tabs; "spectacular" service keeps the "social" atmosphere humming, and though it's "difficult" to land a table in the "constantly full" (and "loud" ) room, it's definitely "worth the trouble" ; P.S. the family-style "Sunday dinners are a must."
Italian · The Mission · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.4

A "tried-and-true destination" , this Mission mainstay from Craig and Anne Stoll still "wows" with Northern Italian staples "done superbly well" , notably "fantastic homemade pastas" that "just melt in your mouth" ; given the "vibrant atmosphere" and a crew that makes everyone "feel at home" , fans "keep coming back for more" even though it’s a "tough reservation" ; P.S. there’s also a "casual pizza parlor next door" serving traditional pies.
Pizza · The Mission · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.2 · Service 4.6

The wood-fired pizza is "wonderful" at this "terrific" Mission Italian with "unique" , "engaging" service by a mostly deaf staff; visitors say they "value the challenge of communicating fully in a new way" (iPad or pen and pad are available), as well as the "quiet" environs, but the food is why they "keep going back."
Italian · Downtown · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.3 · Service 4.4

A "high-end" Italian bistro that "keeps on delivering" , this "memorable" next-door sibling to Barbacco in FiDi/Downtown will "titillate your taste buds" with seasonal Piedmontese dishes that "marry tradition with innovation" , plus a "vast wine list" , all "served with style and civility" ; the "classy" space is "always packed" with "suits" and accordingly "loud" , though "seating upstairs is quieter."
Italian · Lower Pacific Heights · $$$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

"Sensational" Italian dishes, including "outrageously good" pastas, pair with "noteworthy" wines from the Boot at this A16 sibling in Lower Pac Heights, which consistently "nails the risks it takes" in the kitchen; "truly impressive" service helps justify the "splurge" , and while the "elegant-shoebox" setting is undeniably "tight" , there’s an "amazing" chef’s counter and even "sitting at the bar" is a "joy."
Pizzetta 211
Pizza · Outer Richmond · $$
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.8 · Service 4.2

The "farm-fresh, razor-thin pizzas" served at this "quaint" "neighborhood gem" "are beyond delicious" , according to the keepers of "one of the great hidden secrets" of the Outer Richmond; to avoid the "drawback" of waiting to get into the "postage stamp-sized" space, diehards arrive "early" , when there's still room "to watch" their food being made – "you realize where your dollars go" that way.
Italian · Cow Hollow · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

"Generous portions" of "innovative" Italian eats are "made with love" at this "cozy" Cow Hollow trattoria, where "hospitable" waiters are "happy to explain every dish" ; the tables might be "too close together" , but it's still "homey enough to be your neighborhood hangout" , and the three-course early-bird prix fixe is a "great" deal.
Ideale Restaurant
Italian · North Beach · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.3

"Superb" Roman cooking, from "excellent" antipasti to standout risotto and homemade pasta, is "as authentic as it gets" at this "unpretentious" North Beach Italian also offering an "extensive" wine list; the the "homey" setting is another reason fans feel "transported" to a "little trattoria in Italy" , and the "welcoming" staff is another plus.
Il Casaro Pizzeria
Italian · North Beach · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.2

"A really Italian experience" in North Beach, this "casual" Vicoletto sibling is an "outstanding" source of Neapolitan specialties including small plates – "start with the fresh burrata" – and "terrific" wood-fired pizza with "homemade mozzarella" (fans "dream of their prosciutto" version); the "spacious and light" setting, "welcoming atmosphere" and late-night hours solidify it as a "go-to" in the nabe.
Sotto Mare
Italian · North Beach · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.7 · Service 4.3

You'll find fish, pasta and "that's about it" at this "eccentric" yet "excellent" Italian seafood spot in North Beach, which "looks like a dive bar" "full of neighbors" who sit "at the counter" , the few tables or "outside when it's sunny" to feast on what may be the "best cioppino in the city" ; overall, expect "good value" for "huge portions" of "simple" , "fresh" fare along with "decent" service in an atmosphere that's "boisterous" "fun."
Pazzia Restaurant
Italian · SoMa · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.6 · Service 4.4

The thin-crust pizzas, homemade pastas and other "simple" Northern Italian dishes are "always on the mark" at this SoMa trattoria, a "go-to" neighborhood spot near the convention center for down-to-earth cooking at "affordable prices" ; cheerful Italian-speaking staffers man a casual, compact space that often overflows to sidewalk seating.
Pizza · Marina District · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.9 · Service 4.1

"Always buzzing" , these "happening" Italians earn "brownie points" for their "affordable" menu of "scrumptious" small plates plus "super-thin" Roman pizzas; the "communal-table" setup earns mixed responses (either "fun or awkward, depending on the company" ), but the "creative" cocktails and "late-night" hours are fine as is.
Flour + Water
Italian · The Mission · $$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.0 · Service 4.2

"Heavenly" handmade pastas are the main attraction at this high-profile Mission Italian, where chef Thomas McNaughton’s seasonally inspired creations also include "terrific" wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas and "unique" tasting menus, all delivered by an "energized staff" ; tables in the "casual" space are still "a tough ticket" , so reserve far in advance or prepare to brave a "crazy wait."
Tommaso's Ristorante Italiano
Italian · North Beach · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.8 · Service 4.3

"Long before" there was a pizzeria "on every corner" , this "old-school" North Beach Italian "institution" was firing up pies out of its "original wood-burning oven" ; it's "not showy" , just a "charmingly downscale" spot doling out Neapolitan "comfort food" at a "dockworker's price" by folks who "make you feel like family" – but "expect to wait" because there are "no reservations."
Italian · The Mission · $$$
Food 4.5 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.2

"Like its sister restaurant, Delfina" , this "trendy" Mission osteria attracts "hip" types with a "delish" Roman-inspired menu that includes notably "innovative" pastas and what may be the "best Jerusalem artichoke outside of Jerusalem (or Rome)" ; the "sexy decor" , "excellent" service and "awesome" potables are "reason alone to come" , though if you want to converse, bypass the "lively" front bar and "get a seat in the back."
Gioia Pizzeria
Pizza · Russian Hill · $$
Food 4.5 · Decor 3.5 · Service 3.8

You'll enter "pizza heaven" when you try the "memorable" "East Coast-style" pies with "creative" toppings and "Frisbee-thin" crusts at these parlors; the Berkeley original is little more than a "narrow counter" with "zero service" whereas the "casual, relaxed" sit-down Russian Hill offshoot offers a larger menu (including "meatballs to die for" ) alongside a "modest but good wine list" , but either way they amount to the "real thing" , "decent prices" and all.