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The Best Italian Restaurants in San Francisco

Fine dining or family-style, San Francisco is packed with Italian restaurants.

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Italian immigrants took San Francisco by storm in the early 20th century, establishing the most picturesque Little Italy in the United States: North Beach. Although North Beach still absolutely teems with Italian eateries-some of them world famous for their authenticity or creativity-it is also studded with low quality tourist traps, designed to lure those out of the loop in for overpriced mediocrity. In fact, many of San Francisco’s best Italian restaurants are actually hidden away in more residential neighborhoods, where hyper-critical locals keep quality standards at their highest.

1. Original Joe's

Original Joe's
virexmachina/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
A San Francisco favorite since the 1930s, Original Joe's serves real Italian-American specialties in a stunningly beautiful historic dining room right across the street from Washington Square Park. This is food for those that like their meals well-crafted yet simple, artistically served yet hearty in terms of serving size and bursting with authentic flavor. House wines served by the carafe are designed to go well with the dishes and a special dining counter allows guests to watch the kitchen at work while they dine.
601 Union Street (415) 775-4877 www.originaljoesf.com

Read My Full Review of Original Joes

2. Delfina

Image Courtesy of Eric Wolfinger
One of the culinary superstars of the hip Mission District, Delfina features homemade pastas and Italian-inspired plates based on local fresh ingredients. The restaurant often requires reservations weeks in advance and becomes packed on weekends, but the more casual Pizzeria Delfina-located right next door-usually has room for walk-ins.
3621 18th Street, Mission District (415) 552-4055 www.delfinasf.com

3. Sodini's

Image Courtesy of Jesse Garcia
Often sporting a line out the door, Sodini’s is an old school San Francisco Italian restaurant that has been a favorite among locals and tourists alike for decades. The window reads “No Reservations, No Decaf, No Desserts, No Exceptions” and it is this kind of no-nonsense attitude, which focuses on the food instead of the pleasantries, that has kept Sodini’s from being corrupted by fame like many of its North Beach neighbors..
510 Green Street, North Beach (415) 291-0499 www.sodinis.com

4. Seven Hills

Image Courtesy of Seven Hills
A Nob Hill neighborhood favorite that is usually off most tourists' radar, despite the fact that it is right on the Cable Car line between Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf, Seven Hills is Italy meets Northern California at its best. The menu changes seasonally depending upon what local delicacies the chef can get, but most recipes are based on classic and full-flavored Italian standards.
1550 Hyde Street, Nob Hill (415) 775-1550 www.sevenhillssf.com

5. Bella Trattoria

Cozy and intimate yet unpretentious and friendly, Bella is the place to escape the clamor of downtown and enjoy high-quality Italian fare at local prices. Located on Geary Street in the Richmond District, Bella's menu centers on house made pastas in full flavored sauces and meat dishes based on market fresh ingredients. The Chef/Owner studied in Naples and provides excellent personal service, giving the restaurant high marks in attention to detail.
3854 Geary Boulevard, Inner Richmond (415) 221-0305 www.bellatrattoriasf.com

6. Scoma's

Image Courtesy of Scoma's
Locals know that one of the few Fisherman's Wharf restaurants actually worth visiting is Scoma's, a San Francisco landmark that was started in 1965 by two Italian brothers. It's extensive list of Italian seafood entrees and the house made crab cakes have won it many awards over the years and its bayside location and impressive views have landed it on our Best Waterfront Restaurants in San Francisco list as well.
Pier 47 on Al Scoma Way, Fisherman's Wharf (415)771-4383 www.scomas.com

7. Sotto Mare

Image Courtesy of Jesse Garcia
For classic seafood dishes like ciopinno or just fresh oysters on the half shell, Sotto Mare is the stand out Italian restaurant in North Beach. Sotto Mare is family-run and feels like it; the chef/owner has roots that go back in North Beach for decades and locals like to congregate here.
552 Green Street, North Beach (415) 398-3181 www.sottomaresf.com

8. Tommaso Ristorante Italiano

Another old school North Beach institution, Tommmaso’s is located in a tucked away cave-like building just off of Broadway heading down to the financial district. This is one of the best San Francisco Italian restaurants to take kids to, as they will be blown away by the wood fired pizzas, while the adults will have a field day with the heaping helpings of classic Italian dishes, like chicken parmigiana.
1042 Kearny Street, North Beach (415) 398-9696 www.tommasos.com

9. Acquerello

Housed in a former chapel and named after the original watercolors that adorn the wall, Acquerello is one of the most critically claimed Italian restaurants in the city. Featuring an extensive Italian wine list, a cheese cart with selections from many different regions of Italy and a dessert menu that includes house-made gelato, this is a restaurant to bring serious foodies to. Reservations are recommended.
1722 Sacramento Street, Polk/Van Ness Corridor area (415) 567-5432 www.acquerello.com

10. Gaspare's Pizza House and Italian Restaurant

This family-friendly Italian restaurant is owned and operated by a native Sicilian who serves up steaming classic specialties like spaghetti and meatballs as well as quite possibly the city's best thin crust pizza. Old school jukeboxes at the booth tables and house-made cheesecake make Gaspare's an excellent place to take the kids after visiting the museums of Golden Gate Park or frolicking around on Ocean Beach.
5546 Geary Boulevard, Outer Richmond District(415)387-5025 www.gasparespizza.com
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