While there may not be very many Sri Lankan restaurants in San Francisco, the opposite is true of Italian eateries. From the bustling old-school Italian standbys, such as E Tutto Qua, of North Beach to newer Mission hot spots, like Locanda, that churn out Roman-style grilled meats and fried appetizers, SF is not short of amazing Italian ristorantes. If you’re after pasta, specifically plates of the best housemade pasta around, you can find it at one of the following five restaurants. Here are our favorite spots for artisinal pasta in San Francisco.
Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin’s downtown restaurant serves up authentic cuisine using the flavors of Piemonte and Liguria in an upscale and luxurious setting. The service is impeccable and a meal at Perbacco, be it a working lunch mid-week or a celebratory dinner late on a Saturday night, is always a treat. On any given day there are at least six different kinds of pasta on the menu, from traditional agnolotti dal plin filled with roasted meats and savory cabbage to raviora filled with pear and mascarpone in a chrysanthemum, white pomegranate, and pear balsamic sauce. What we love about the pasta at Perbacco is it’s ability to be innovative and classic at the same time. For example, the wide ribbon-like pappardelle is coated in a time-honored red wine braised short rib ragu, but the addition of a freshly grated horseradish garnish takes the dish to a whole new level.
230 California Street San Francisco, CA 94111
When SPQR first opened, it was merely known as A16’s little sister restaurant with a focus on Roman cuisine. However, once chef Matthew Accarrino took over the kitchen, things changed and the restaurant became the pasta powerhouse it is now. If you happen to arrive at the intimate Pacific Heights eatery when Accarrino’s pasta tasting menu is being offered, order it without hesitation. It’s six courses (well five really, but we recommend you add the truffle pasta if it’s an option) of the best, most creative pasta we’ve ever had. Think smoked fettuccinie with sea urchin, buckwheat pasta with suckling pig, and cocoa spaghetti with muscovy duck. These combinations might not sound like they would work, but Accarrino is a mastermind when it comes to pasta, and each bite will be an explosion of flavors, a delicate balance of soft pasta and rich sauce. The most wonderful thing about SPQR’s pasta is that you can eat six courses of it and not feel overly stuffed or weighed down. While it’s filled with lavish ingredients, Accarrino’s pasta is surprisingly light.
1911 Fillmore Street San Francisco, CA 94115
3 Flour + Water
Thomas McNaughton is another young chef making waves in the artisanal pasta scene. His restaurant in the Mission, Flour + Water, is always packed, so be prepared to wait or grab a seat at the communal table. McNaughton offers a pasta tasting menu with five different kinds of pasta such as matsutake mushroom tortillini, whole wheat bigoli with guanciale, and rabbit raviolini with smoked heirloom tomato. While SPQR’s pasta is pure sophistication, Flour + Water’s is more subdued rustic elegance. If your entire party is not in the mood for five pasta dishes, order off the menu which has a mixture of customary items (like agnolotti dal plin) and inventive plates (such as pardon pepper rigatoni with braised pork shoulder and corn cappelleti with lobster mushroom).
2401 Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94110
4 Seven Hills
Over in Russian Hill, you’ll find the tiny restaurant Seven Hills. Walk into this lovely neighborhood spot whose tables fill up each and every night (except Mondays when they are closed) and you’ll feel as if you’ve walked into a ristorante in a charming Italian village. The host and manager has a heavy accent, but he’s so handsome it doesn’t matter. The ravioli uovo, a single large ravioli filled with an egg yolk, ricotta cheese, and spinach, comes in a pool of brown butter. It’s so divine that we’ve ordered one for the table, devoured it, and ordered another. The kale tagiatelle with Oregon chanterelles — yes the pasta is green thanks to lots of healthy kale! — and spaghetti with house-made pancetta are both stellar pasta choices.
1550 Hyde Street San Francisco, CA 94109
5 La Ciccia
Owned by husband and wife team, Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan, La Ciccia is a Noe Valley restaurant that specializes in regional Sardinian food. Seafood plays an important role in many of the dishes, including the melt-in-your mouth, wildly delicious pasta items. It doesn’t get more simple than perfectly made fresh spaghetti tossed with a spicy garlic oil and piled high with shaved bottariga. There’s also fergola with sea urchin and smoked pancetta, fresh linguine with seafood sugo and squid ink, and if you’re in the mood for pork, capelli gnochetti with pecorino sardo. La Ciccia has an old world feel to it and you can’t help but make friends with the staff and nearby diners while you savor the extraordinary food.
291 30th Street San Francisco, CA 94131