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Food To Die For

Sinfully Unforgettable Italian Restaurants

2011 Dine like a Borgia.


Zagat Survey is pleased to present Food To Die For, a guide to sinfully unforgettable Italian restaurants in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Rome and San Francisco, to celebrate THE BORGIAS, a new Showtime Original Series. Feel like a member of the original crime family as you’re serenaded by singing waiters at Los Angeles’ C & O Trattoria or partaking of an intimate rendezvous in the wine cellar at New York City’s Il Buco. From covert affairs to heavenly feasts, we’ve compiled the hottest out-of-the-way hideaways and sultry spots so you too can dine – and indulge – like a Borgia.

Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons stars in the epic new Showtime Original Series THE BORGIAS, the explosive story of history’s original crime family. Conspiring with his ruthless sons Cesare and Juan, and poisonously seductive daughter Lucrezia, the charismatic Rodrigo Borgia will stop at nothing to have everything. Through bribery, intimidation and murder, Rodrigo gains control of the Vatican. He begins his scandalous reign as Pope Alexander VI by securing powerful positions for his children. Despite Cesare’s passion for battle, his father appoints him Cardinal and Papal advisor, while Juan is named head of the Vatican Armies – though he spends more time chasing women than leading his soldiers. In hopes of furthering his family’s fortunes, the Pope orders his young daughter, against her wishes, into an arranged marriage – and takes for himself the beautiful wife of a prominent noble as his mistress. Relentless in their pursuit of both power and pleasure, the Borgias live a decadent lifestyle full of wild parties, lavish banquets and other sinful pleasures. Rodrigo uses his Papal reign to amass great wealth and builds an empire that will make the Borgias one of the most notorious families in history – inspiring Machiavelli’s The Prince and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Don’t miss the epic story of THE BORGIAS, the new series from Academy Award® winner Neil Jordan – only on SHOWTIME®.

The Borgias • Special Premiere Event • Sunday, April 3, 9pm et/pt New Episodes Sundays 10pm et/pt


Contents Directory: Names, Locations, Contact Info, Ratings & Reviews Chicago................................................................................. 3 Los Angeles.......................................................................... 7 New York City..................................................................... 11 Philadelphia....................................................................... 15 Rome, Italy..........................................................................19 San Francisco.....................................................................23 Ratings & Symbols Food, Decor and Service are rated on the Zagat 0 to 30 scale. 0 – \ 9 poor to fair \ 20 25  – \ \ very good to excellent

10 – \ 15 fair to good \ 26 30 – \ \ excellent to perfection

16 – \ 19 \

good to very good

N low response | less reliable

Cost Our surveyors’ estimated price of a dinner with one drink and tip. Lunch is usually 25 to 30% less. Costs are shown either as numerical figures or as follows: I Inexpensive \

M Moderate \

E \

Expensive

VE Very Expensive \

Comments Surveyors’ comments are indicated in quotation marks within reviews.

Symbols L serves after 11 PM

= closed on Sunday

~ closed on Monday

X no credit cards accepted

This guide is based on public opinion surveys of regular restaurant-goers like you. The ratings reflect the average scores given by the survey participants who voted on each establishment. The text is based on quotes from, or paraphrasings of, the surveyors’ comments. Phone numbers, addresses and other factual data were correct to the best of our knowledge when published in this guide. © 2011 Zagat Survey, LLC


Chicago Family Dinners Bruna’s Ristorante Café Bionda Illicit Trysts Natalino’s Prosecco Last Meal–Worthy Venues Il Mulino New York Riccardo Trattoria Spiaggia Post-Conquering Celebrations Accanto Pelago Ristorante Provocative Scenes + Cuisine Cibo Matto Florentine Gioco Wine & Dine Spots Gabriel’s Pane Caldo Piccolo Sogno


service

Accanto

— — — ! E \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Chicago

Logan Square | 2171 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Talman Ave.) | 773-227-2727 | www.accanto-chicago.com Respected Milan-born chef Domenico Acampora oversees the contemporary, fusionstyle Italian menu at this destination-dining (read: expensive) arrival in Logan Square; the modern, intimate milieu is done up in sophisticated neutral tones, and also features leather seating, rustic wood beams and stainless dome light fixtures.

Bruna’s Ristorante

26 12 21 ! $32 \ \ \

Southwest Side | 2424 S. Oakley Ave. (24th Pl.) | 773-254-5550 “One of Chicago’s oldest continuously operated restaurants” (opened 1933), this moderately priced Southwest Side “neighborhood stalwart” is an “oasis” of “classic family Italian” dining complete with an “old-world staff”; it may “look like a typical redsauce” place “but the quality is much better” say aficionados who aver it’s “always a pleasure (despite the ancient decor)”, plus it’s “not a tourist” spot.

Café Bionda

22 17 20 ! $31 \ \ \

South Loop | 1924 S. State St. (Archer Ave.) | 312-326-9800 | www.cafebionda.com Amici of this “cozy” South Loop Italian are drawn to its “hearty” “traditional” fare dished out in “large quantities” with “friendly service” amid a “neighborhood ambiance”; “fair prices” add to the allure, including the “Sunday special” platter that’s a “terrific bargain” of meatballs, sausages and veal braciole.

Cibo Matto =

24 26 23 ! $53 \ \ \

Loop | theWit Hotel | 201 N. State St. (Lake St.) | 312-239-9500 | www.eatcibomatto.com “Trendy” types testify the “hype is justified” at this “elegant but happening” Italian in theWit Hotel where “ultramodern decor” with “swanky booths” is the setting for “inventive”, “beautifully presented” seasonal cuisine accompanied by “informed service”; while the “see-and-be-seen” atmosphere makes for a special “night out” (especially at the rooftop lounge), it’s “expensive”, so wallet-watchers “list it for lunch in the Loop”; N.B. the Food score doesn’t reflect a recent chef change.

Florentine, The

— — — ! E \ \ \

Loop | JW Marriott Chicago | 151 W. Adams St. (bet. LaSalle & Wells Sts.) | 312-660-8866 | www.the-florentine.net Todd Stein (ex Cibo Matto, mk) crafts upscale contemporary Italian cuisine from local ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner (plus Sunday brunch and separate pizza/ crostini and lounge menus) at this arrival in the Loop’s Marriott; the elegant setting features well-spaced tables, white linens, stately pillars, modern light fixtures and a white marble bar issuing seasonal cocktails and a Boot-focused wine list. 3 | visit ZAGAT.com


Gabriel’s = ~

cost

service

decor

food

Chicago

25 23 25 ! $72 \ \ \

Highwood | 310 Green Bay Rd. (Highwood Ave.) | 847-433-0031 | www.egabriels.com Gabriel Viti “runs a hands-on operation” at his “intimate”, “romantic” Highwood restaurant, which devotees dub a “mecca for exceptional eats” for its “wonderful take on Italian” with an “obvious French influence”, “outstanding wine list” and “excellent”, “personal service”; though some surveyors call it “too pricey”, and others lobby for “some new dishes”, all agree it’s a “first-class night out.”

Gioco

25 21 22 ! $42 \ \ \

South Loop | 1312 S. Wabash Ave. (13th St.) | 312-939-3870 | www.gioco-chicago.com For “quality” dining in the South Loop, surveyors look to the “excellent” seasonal Northern Italian fare (“nothing trendy or silly”) including “heavenly pasta with wild boar sauce” at this “happening” “former speakeasy” from Jerry Kleiner (Marché, Red Light, 33 Club); “it’s a little expensive”, but the “warm”, “urban” “exposed-brick decor” with an “open kitchen” is home to a “noisy fun atmosphere” and “friendly, competent service”; P.S. it’s also “near the Convention Center.”

Il Mulino New York

25 24 24 ! $77 \ \ \

Gold Coast | 1150 N. Dearborn St. (bet. Division & Elm Sts.) | 312-440-8888 | www.ilmulino.com Offering “fine Italian dining” complete with a “very good wine list”, this Gold Coast “New York import” set in the “intimate”, “beautiful Biggs mansion” also boasts an “expert staff” that pleased patrons liken to “flawless performers on stage” delivering a “special evening”; the less-impressed say service “can be overwhelming” and find it all “outrageously expensive”, but those seated next to one of the “fireplaces” just call it “wonderful.”

Natalino’s ~

23 19 22 ! $42 \ \ \

Noble Square | 1523 W. Chicago Ave. (Armour St.) | 312-997-3700 | www.natalinoschicago.com “Don’t tell anyone” about this “worth-the-trip” West Town “jewel” whisper loyalists or “you’ll spoil it for the regulars” who relish the “wonderful”, “reasonably priced” Italian fare, “attentive” hospitality and clubby, “warm” setting; budget-watchers love the “daily specials”, and night owls can “people-watch” until 2 AM.

Pane Caldo

23 21 21 ! $62 \ \ \

Gold Coast | 72 E. Walton St. (bet. Michigan Ave. & Rush St.) | 312-649-0055 | www.pane-caldo.com “Superb” Italian fare, a solid wine list and generally “knowledgeable” service are on offer at this “quaint”, “romantic” Gold Coast “gem” that “feels like Milan” with its amber-hued walls and dark-blue ceilings; but the “intimate” setting strikes some as “cramped”, while others feel their wallet’s pain from “overpricing.” vote at ZAGAT.com | 4


cost

service

decor

food

Chicago

N \ \ \ 26 24 27 ! $53

Pelago Ristorante

Streeterville | Raffaello Hotel | 201 E. Delaware Pl. (Mies Vander Rohe Way) | 312-280-0700 | www.pelagorestaurant.com Chef-owner Mauro Mafrici “knows how to cook” pronounce proponents of the “superb”, “creative” Italian at his new Streeterville dining room serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; it’s “worth seeking out” in a “hidden hotel” off Michigan Avenue, given the “winning” dishes, “outstanding service” and “tastefully decorated” space with porcelain chandeliers, white leather chairs and a mother of pearl fireplace; N.B. there’s seasonal patio seating.

24 23 22 ! $50 \ \ \

Piccolo Sogno

Near West | 464 N. Halsted St. (Grand Ave.) | 312-421-0077 | www.piccolosognorestaurant.com “Avid” fans of Northern Italian cuisine say Tony Priolo (ex Coco Pazzo) “pushes the boundaries” “of quality and authenticity” at this “beautiful” Near West “treasure” with vast, “reasonably priced” “wine choices” a “glorious” garden is “heaven” to habitués, so if “service is inconsistent” and it can be “a bit noisy”, most still insist it’s “truly a little dream.”

Prosecco =

24 23 23 ! $57 \ \ \

River North | 710 N. Wells St. (bet. Huron & Superior Sts.) | 312-951-9500 | www.ristoranteprosecco.com Bubbly boosters say this “sophisticated” River Norther cooks up regional dishes “with a little twist” while pouring from an “extensive” exclusively Italian wine list, all delivered by an “accommodating”, “professional” staff in a “warm, comfortable, Venetian-style” setting that includes a “huge bar”; it’s “not cheap”, but the fare is “satisfying” and “reliable”, and most agree it’s an “enjoyable” “experience overall” for a “romantic” “date” or “dinner with friends.”

Riccardo Trattoria

27 19 23 ! $46 \ \ \

Lincoln Park | 2119 N. Clark St. (bet. Dickens & Webster Aves.) | 773-549-0038 | www.riccardotrattoria.com Dining at this “understated” Lincoln Park trattoria – the top-rated Italian in Chicago­– “brings back trips to Italy” say insiders, who prefer to steer the “masses” away from their “tiny gem” offering “fantastic” “classic” and “seasonal” dishes delivered by an “on-point staff”; a “delightful”, simple setting with wood tables further evokes the “unpretentious” “spirit of Tuscany” for a “bargain” of a “special” experience.

Spiaggia

27 27 27 ! $93 \ \ \

Gold Coast | One Magnificent Mile Bldg. | 980 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd fl. (Oak St.) | 312-280-2750 | www.spiaggiarestaurant.com “It may be cheaper to fly to Rome” than to dine at Tony Mantuano’s Gold Coast “destination”, but surveyors succumb to the “delicate, handmade pastas”, “velvety sauces” and entrees that “sing your name” matched by an “extensive Italian wine list”; the “elegant” dining room offering “exquisite views of the lake” – “an experience” – has “attentive” yet “unobtrusive” service, but “as astounding as it is”, some favor the less “formal” “cafe next door”; N.B. jackets required. 5 | visit ZAGAT.com


Los Angeles Family Dinners C&O Marino Matteo’s Illicit Trysts Locanda Veneta Michael’s on Naples Ristorante Piccolo Last Meal–Worthy Venues Angelini Osteria Capo Osteria Mozza Post-Conquering Celebrations Cecconi’s Scarpetta Provocative Scenes + Cuisine Cicada Valentino Wine & Dine Spots Culina Modern Italian Drago


service

Angelini Osteria ~

28 18 24 ! $53 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Los Angeles

Beverly Boulevard | 7313 Beverly Blvd. (bet. N. Fuller Ave. & N. Poinsettia Pl.) | 323-297-0070 | www.angeliniosteria.com “Dazzling” dishes from chef-owner Gino Angelini – such as “salt-crusted branzino” “to die for” and lasagna that’s a “Proustian experience” – are accompanied by “exquisite wines” at this “tiny” Beverly Boulevard trattoria, which is again voted LA’s No. 1 Italian; surveyors say “solicitous service” and a “warm, inviting” vibe help to distract from the “sardine” seating and the fact that it can be a bit “pricey.”

C & O Cucina

19 17 20 $26. \ \ \ !

Marina del Rey | 3016 Washington Blvd. (Thatcher Ave.) | 310-301-7278 | www.cocucina.com

C & O Trattoria Marina del Rey | 31 Washington Blvd. (Pacific Ave.) | 310-823-9491 | www.trattoria.com “You won’t leave hungry” from this Italian trattoria in Marina del Rey where the “garlic knots” are “unlimited”, “wine flows from never-empty carafes” and waiters lead nightly “sing-alongs”; both offer “cheap food in large quantities” and are for “festive” feasts.

Capo = ~

25 23 23 ! $80 \ \ \

Santa Monica | 1810 Ocean Ave. (Vicente Terr.) | 310-394-5550 | www.caporestaurant.com “Tuscan farm house”–like though Bruce Marder’s “upscale” Santa Monica Italian may be, the “beautiful people” and “Bentleys” it attracts remind diners that they’re at one of Ocean Avenue’s hot spots”, where “see-and-be-seen” types wrestle over reservations; what makes it a “true destination” is its “inspired” cuisine, exhaustive wine list and “romantic”, fireplace-enhanced interior – just be sure to “bring someone else’s wallet.”

Cecconi’s L

20 25 20 ! $57 \ \ \

West Hollywood | 8764 Melrose Ave. (Robertson Blvd.) | 310-432-2000 | www.cecconiswesthollywood.com The “comfortable, glam” setting complete with “seductive patio” is a perfect foil for the “celebs”, “British expats” and other “‘in’-crowd” types who dine on “fine” Italian fare “attentively” served at this “lively” WeHo offshoot of a London hot spot; it gets “oppressively crowded” and can take a toll on the wallet, but nonetheless it remains “one of the hardest reservations in town.”

Cicada ~

23 28 24 ! $56 \ \ \

Downtown | 617 S. Olive St. (bet. 6th & 7th Sts.) | 213-488-9488 | www.cicadarestaurant.com The “stunning” art deco setting inside a “historic” “former haberdashery” makes everything “taste even better” at this Downtown “destination” tied for LA’s No. 1 Decor, whose “amazing” Cal-Italian cuisine makes for “fine dining” that’s “expensive” but “so worth the price”; factor in “impeccable” service and a live big band with dancing on Sundays and it “can’t be beat.” 7 | visit ZAGAT.com

17

20 $26..


service

Culina Modern Italian

— — — ! E \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Los Angeles

Beverly Hills | Four Seasons Beverly Hills | 300 S. Doheny Dr. (Burton Way) | 310-860-4000 | www.culinarestaurant.com Follow a garden path to this Italian located in the celeb-heavy Four Seasons Beverly Hills, where options on the upscale menu range from brick-oven pizza to selections from a crudo bar; the casually elegant setting features a huge glass-bubble chandelier, outdoor seating, large wine room with a communal table made from a 200-year-old magnolia tree and a mini-shop selling artisanal foods.

23 20 22 ! $56 \ \ \

Drago

Santa Monica | 2628 Wilshire Blvd. (26th St.) | 310-828-1585 | www.celestinodrago.com At this “mature” Santa Monica “classic” from chef-owner Celestino Drago, “attentive”, “warm” waiters deliver “divine” “old-world” Italian dishes, including “melt-in-yourmouth pumpkin tortellini”; add an “extensive list” of over 1,000 wines and a “lovely”, “formal” room, and it’s clear why most maintain the experience is “worth every penny.”

Locanda Veneta

25 19 22 ! $54 \ \ \

Third Street | 8638 W. Third St. (Willaman Dr.) | 310-274-1893 | www.locandaveneta.net Made for “date nights”, this pocket-sized Italian “classic” on Third Street supplies “superb” “homemade” trattoria fare with a Venetian twist and “attentive service” “without the attitude” in a setting that’s distinctly “intimate” (if “a bit close”); admittedly, it’s “not cheap”, but admirers agree the “top-caliber” experience is “worth every penny.”

Marino =

24 16 24 ! $47 \ \ \

Hollywood | 6001 Melrose Ave. (Wilcox Ave.) | 323-466-8812 | www.marinorestaurant.net “Old-school Italian” still rules at this “Hollywood institution”, where a “second generation” of Marinos (local legend Ciro passed away in 2009) keeps “the tradition going” with “wonderful” “red-sauce” fare and “warm” servers treat regulars like “royalty”; the “quaint” space is “certainly not splashy”, but it’s “comfortable” if you can handle the cost.

Matteo’s ~

20 21 23 ! $49 \ \ \

West LA | 2321 Westwood Blvd. (bet. Pico Blvd. & Tennessee Ave.) | 310-475-4521 | www.matteosla.com Newly refurbished, this “clubby” West LA “staple” preserves its “groovy Rat Pack feel” with a larger bar and spiffed-up leather booths (“Ol’ Blue Eyes and friends used to hang” at table No. 8); the “Italian standbys” and “attentive” service remain “up to par”, and consensus says the “old-fashioned” allure is enough to distract from up-to-date pricing. vote at ZAGAT.com | 8


service

Michael’s on Naples Ristorante

26 23 23 ! $52 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Los Angeles

Long Beach | 5620 E. Second St. (bet. Ravenna & Tivoli Drs.) | 562-439-7080 | www.michaelsonnaples.com “Head and shoulders above” its local rivals, this Long Beacher is a “hidden treasure” where the “inspired” Italian fare is paired with “creative” wines and served with “grace”; the “semi-upscale” atmosphere is a “best bet” for a “romantic” meal, especially since it’s “not ridiculously expensive.”

Osteria Mozza

27 23 24 ! $65 \ \ \

Hollywood | 6602 Melrose Ave. (Highland Ave.) | 323-297-0100 | www.mozza-la.com “Heaven” for “foodies”, this big-ticket Batali-Silverton collaboration in Hollywood is the site of “truly memorable” “Roman feasts” starring “sublime” secondi, “sensuous cheeses” from the in-house mozzarella bar and a “gorgeous” egg-filled raviolo that could make you “tear up” just thinking about it; cap it off with a “killer” vino list and a ”dark”, “celeb”-heavy room “abuzz” with “New York energy” and most are willing to overlook the “deadly sound level”, “difficult-to-get reservations” and staff that could sometimes “use a little less ’tude.”

Piccolo

26 20 24 ! $62 \ \ \

Venice | 5 Dudley Ave. (Spdwy.) | 310-314-3222 | www.piccolovenice.com “Like a mini-trip to the old country”, this Venice “hideaway” “just off the beach” conjures up a “wonderfully authentic” experience with “fantastico” Venetian cuisine and “spectacular” wines served by an “engaging” Italian-speaking staff; the fireplace lends it a “homey” feel, and now that a recent expansion has doubled the “charming”, goldtoned dining room, “the only setback is the price.”

Scarpetta

— — — ! E \ \ \

Beverly Hills | Montage Beverly Hills | 225 N. Cañon Dr. (Wilshire Blvd.) | 310-860-7800 | www.montagebeverlyhills.com Increasingly ubiquitous New York chef Scott Conant brings his flagship Italian to the Montage Beverly Hills, where he’s using the massive Molteni-endowed kitchen to crank out pricey, produce-driven fare; the light-filled space sparkles at night thanks to oversized hanging lamps, and there’s a private dining room in the back of the kitchen offering a fine view of the crew at work.

Valentino = ~

26 24 26 ! $72 \ \ \

Santa Monica | 3115 Pico Blvd. (bet. 31st & 32nd Sts.) | 310-829-4313 | www.welovewine.com “Aging more gracefully than most”, this circa-1972 Santa Monica “icon” is “still going strong” with “refined” Italian cuisine and a “mind-boggling” array of wines set down in a “luxurious” chandelier-clad setting that’s a “lovely change of pace”; a “professional” staff led by “consummate host” Piero Selvaggio makes it the “quintessential specialoccasion place”, just “expect to pay top dollar for the experience.” 9 | visit ZAGAT.com


New York City Family Dinners Carmine’s Sambuca Illicit Trysts Barbone Canaletto Last Meal–Worthy Venues Dell’anima Del Posto Rao’s Post-Conquering Celebrations Babbo Marea Scalini Fedeli Provocative Scenes + Cuisine Casa Lever Trattoria Dell’Arte Wine & Dine Spots Becco Il Buco Maialino


service

Babbo L

27 23 25 ! $79 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

New York City

G Village | 110 Waverly Pl. (bet. MacDougal St. & 6th Ave.) | 212-777-0303 | www.babbonyc.com “Still a wow”, the Batali-Bastianich boys’ “boffo” Village “linchpin” is “always on” with “transcendent” Italian cooking, “primo” wines and “well-informed service”; the handsome restored carriage house quarters are always “jammed” with “cacophonic” crowds, who say that the “hassle to get a table” and the check afterwards are “beyond worth it.”

24 18 22 ! $45 \ \ \

Barbone

E Village | 186 Ave. B (bet. 11th & 12th Sts.) | 212-254-6047 | www.barbonenyc.com Somewhat of a “best-kept secret”, this “little” Alphabet City “gem” offers “lip-smacking” Italiana via a “genial” team overseen by a “host-with-the-most” owner; “decent prices” and a “charming garden” seal the deal.

Becco L

23 19 22 ! $46 \ \ \

W 40s | 355 W. 46th St. (bet. 8th & 9th Aves.) | 212-397-7597 | www.becco-nyc.com “Good value” is the main attraction at Joe and Lidia Bastianich’s molto “busy” Restaurant Row Italian with a “home-run” hook: “amazing”, “all-you-can-eat” pasta for $23, washed down with a “fab” $25-a-bottle wine list; even better, the “accommodating” staffers “get you to the show on time without compromising quality.”

Canaletto

21 17 22 ! $56 \ \ \

E 60s | 208 E. 60th St. (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves.) | 212-317-9192 An “island of mellow civility”, this “upscale” Italian “close to Bloomie’s” offers “quiet”, “reliable” dining as a relief in a “frenzied shopping” zone; it’s “traditional”, verging on “stuffy” – and that suits its “adult”, “kissy-face” fan base just fine.

20 16 18 ! $42 \ \ \

Carmine’s

W 40s | 200 W. 44th St. (bet. B’way & 8th Ave.) | 212-221-3800 L W 90s | 2450 Broadway (bet. 90th & 91st Sts.) | 212-362-2200 www.carminesnyc.com “Heroic” family-style portions of “super-garlicky” red-sauce Italiana ensure that “you’ll always take home a doggy bag” from these hugely popular Westsiders; “loud” and “bustling” with “groups”, “tourists” and “theatergoers”, they can be “difficult to get into” without a “wait.”

Casa Lever =

23 25 22 ! $75 \ \ \

E 50s | 390 Park Ave. (enter on 53rd St., bet. Madison & Park Aves.) | 212-888-2700 | www.casalever.com “Chic and modern”, this “buzzy” canteen in Midtown’s Lever House delivers a “highenergy” scene, “sophisticated” Milanese cuisine and “ultracool” design with “Warhols” lining the walls; it’s a “movers-and-shakers” magnet at lunch, but whenever you show up, bring your “expense account.” 11 | visit ZAGAT.com


service

Dell’anima L

25 19 20 ! $53 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

New York City

W Village | 38 Eighth Ave. (Jane St.) | 212-366-6633 | www.dellanima.com “Young, beautiful” types are dell’ighted by this “tiny”, “lively” West Villager where the “tantalizing” Italian cooking is best enjoyed “at the counter by the open kitchen”; despite “tight” seating, “pricey” tabs and “hard-to-get reservations”, it’s always “crowded”; equally “popular” is Anfora, its new next-door wine bar/holding pen.

26 26 25 ! $94 \ \ \

Del Posto

Chelsea | 85 10th Ave. (bet. 15th & 16th Sts.) | 212-497-8090 | www.delposto.com The “Batali-Bastianich dynasty” provides an experience that’s “as much opera as restaurant” at this Way West Chelsea “luxe Italian” where the “divine”, “complex” cooking meets its match in the “spectacular wine list”; “perfect” service and a “drop-dead”, “marble-and-mahogany” setting (like the Excelsior in Rome) make fans “feel warm all over”, even if it might be cheaper to fly there.

Il Buco L

26 24 22 ! $65 \ \ \

NoHo | 47 Bond St. (bet. Bowery & Lafayette St.) | 212-533-1932 | www.ilbuco.com “Off-the-charts” Med-Italian cuisine made from “artisanal ingredients” is served by a “congenial” crew at this NoHo “celeb” magnet set in a transporting, “antiques”laden “Tuscan-rustic” room; sure, it’s “expensive”, but fans call it “last meal”–worthy – especially in its “romantic wine cellar.”

Maialino

25 23 24 ! $67 \ \ \

Gramercy | Gramercy Park Hotel | 2 Lexington Ave. (21st St.) | 212-777-2410 | www.maialinonyc.com Danny Meyer goes Italian and “nails it again” at this “hot” newcomer in the Gramercy Park Hotel, a “marvelous” Roman trattoria mock-up with “mouthwatering” “rustic” fare (the “delectable” eponymous roast pig “is the thing”) and “impressive” wines served with “no pretense” by a “sensational” staff; it’s “not cheap”, but “energetic” “throngs” make it “tough to get a reservation” – though the “wonderful” front wine bar accepts walk-ins.

Marea

27 26 25 ! $96 \ \ \

W 50s | 240 Central Park S. (bet. B’way & 7th Ave.) | 212-582-5100 | www.marea-nyc.com Chef Michael White (Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini) turns the “wow factor” way up for “sophisticated diners” at this “sumptuous” Central Park South slice of “la dolce vita” that’s voted NYC’s No. 1 Italian thanks to its “transcendent” seafood-focused cuisine; “impeccable” service and “opulent” surroundings complete the “breathtaking” experience.

vote at ZAGAT.com | 12


service

Rao’s = X

22 15 22 ! $75 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

New York City

Harlem | 455 E. 114th St. (Pleasant Ave.) | 212-722-6709 | www.raos.com “Snagging a reservation” at Frank Pellegrino’s “primo” – and perpetually “sold-out” – “old-school” East Harlem Italian is near-“impossible”, but the “chosen ones” affirm that the “scene is straight out of a [Bogart or Cagney] movie”, “peppered with celebs” and “exclusive” types – oh, and the “red sauce” is as good as “grandma’s”; those less “fortunate” will have to make do with the “Vegas offshoot.”

20 17 20 ! $41 \ \ \

Sambuca

W 70s | 20 W. 72nd St. (bet. Columbus Ave. & CPW) | 212-787-5656 | www.sambucanyc.com “Gargantuan” “family-style platters” of red-gravy dishes delivered by a “helpful” staff is the deal at this “cavernous”, “noisy”, “low-cost” UWS “local”; it fills the bill when you’re feeding “large families and groups” – or “can’t get into Carmine’s”; P.S. the “gluten-free menu” is a plus.

Scalini Fedeli =

27 24 25 ! $86 \ \ \

TriBeCa | 165 Duane St. (bet. Greenwich & Hudson Sts.) | 212-528-0400 | www.scalinifedeli.com “Exquisite” Northern Italian cooking in a “romantic”, “high”-vaulted-ceilinged setting that recalls “Tuscany”, matched with an “impressive wine list” and “first-class” service, make Michael Cetrulo’s “wonderful” TriBeCan a favored “special-occasion” destination; it’s far from cheap (prix fixe–only dinner is $65), but “such a memorable evening” is “worth every penny.”

Trattoria Dell’Arte L

21 20 21 ! $59 \ \ \

W 50s | 900 Seventh Ave. (bet. 56th & 57th Sts.) | 212-245-9800 | www.trattoriadellarte.com A Midtown “celebrity haven” with “Carnegie Hall in its backyard”, this “hopping” Northern Italian is famed for “fabulous” antipasti, “to-die-for” thin pizzas and “whimsical” decor with “plaster body parts emerging from the wall”; service is “with a smile”, and the tabs are “not outrageous” given the “exciting” “scene.”

13 | visit ZAGAT.com


Philadelphia Family Dinners La Veranda Scoogi’s Classic Italian Illicit Trysts Branzino Le Virtù Last Meal–Worthy Venues Birchrunville Store Cafe Davio’s Vetri Post-Conquering Celebrations Osteria Savona Table 31 Provocative Scenes + Cuisine Positano Coast Ristorante Positano Wine & Dine Spots La Famiglia Ristorante Panorama Saloon


service

Birchrunville Store Cafe = ~ X

28 24 27 ! $54 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Philadelphia

Birchrunville | 1403 Hollow Rd. (School House Ln.) | 610-827-9002 | www.birchrunvillestorecafe.com Francis Trzeciak’s “quaint” Franco-Italian BYO “hideaway” in a circa-1892 Chester County store wows city folk and others with “magical” cuisine that yields an “ah-hah with every bite”, served in a “relaxed” setting that exudes a “hands-on family-ownership feel”; it’s a “little piece of heaven” all right – and some quip “you will think you drove that far” to get there (even the restroom is a “schlep”) – but nearly all agree it’s “more than worth” the trip (as long as you bring cash; no plastic).

23 19 21 ! $43 \ \ \

Branzino

Rittenhouse | 261 S. 17th St. (bet. Locust & Spruce Sts.) | 215-790-0103 | www.branzinophilly.com “Melt-in-your-mouth” “artichoke hearts”, “risotto” and of course the “signature branzino” “filleted tableside” – “what more could you ask for in a BYO?” posit partisans of this Rittenhouse Italian; the “outstanding” staff will get you to your curtain on time (“you’ll waltz through dinner, but then they’ll hustle you out”), and if it’s “too crowded” inside, there’s always the “secret garden.”

Davio’s

25 25 25 ! $58 \ \ \

Rittenhouse | Provident Bank Bldg. | 111 S. 17th St. (bet. Chestnut & Sansom Sts.) | 215-563-4810 | www.davios.com A “wonderful respite” from “busy” Rittenhouse, this “primo” Northern Italian steakhouse is the “epitome of class” and worth the “splurge” thanks to “scrumptious”, “well-prepared” food and an “extensive wine list” in a historic bank building with “soaring ceilings” and an “elegance only found in 1940s musicals”; the staff makes you feel “like royalty” and helps you “impress” clients, rounding out an altogether “awesome” experience.

La Famiglia =

23 21 22 ! $60 \ \ \

Old City | 8 S. Front St. (bet. Chestnut & Market Sts.) | 215-922-2803 | www.lafamiglia.com After 35 years, the Sena family’s “little jewel” in Old City is still living up to its “usual high standards” according to stalwarts who cite “impeccable” service, “wonderful” food and an “out-of-control” wine list of some 450 labels; the “formal” setting is “quite romantic”, and while the majority agrees the “memorable” experience is “worth every penny”, a few grumble that “the staff should remember who is paying and who is serving.”

La Veranda

22 20 21 ! $52 \ \ \

Delaware Riverfront | Penn’s Landing, Pier 3 | 31 N. Columbus Blvd. (Market St.) | 215-351-1898 | www.laverandapier3.com “Powerful people” and others gravitate to this “classic old-world Italian” “haunt” on Penn’s Landing, where “special occasions” are abetted by “poised” personnel and “river views”; although some cavil that the “high prices” are “over the top”, most say it’s “worth the trip.” 15 | visit ZAGAT.com


service

Le Virtù

26 20 22 ! $47 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Philadelphia

South Philly | 1927 E. Passyunk Ave. (bet. McKean & Mifflin Sts.) | 215-271-5626 | www.levirtu.com Even though chef Luciana Spurio “does not seek to dazzle”, her “hands of gold” still create “beautiful”, “homemade” dishes that exemplify “the special charm of the Abruzzese table” at this “spectacular” Italian that “rises above South Philly expectations”; the service is “friendly”, and though the “unassuming” decor “lets you know you’re in the neighborhood”, the patio is “wonderful” in “warm weather.”

27 24 24 ! $56 \ \ \

Osteria

North Philly | 640 N. Broad St. (Wallace St.) | 215-763-0920 | www.osteriaphilly.com “Let your inhibitions go” at the Vetri gang’s “industrial”-meets-“rustic” Italian in a “pioneering” North Philly location; it’s “perfect” for a “date” or “celebratory night out” thanks to chef Jeff Michaud’s “swoon-worthy” pizzas, charcuterie and pastas, which are backed by an “expansive” wine list and served by a staff that makes you feel “snuggled up in a warm, doughy embrace” in a room that’s “full of energy”; while it’s “not cheap”, “easy street parking” (albeit in a “questionable” area) will save you some $$$.

Positano Coast

21 24 21 ! $43 \ \ \

Society Hill | 212 Walnut St., 2nd fl. (2nd St.) | 215-238-0499 | www.positanocoast.net Sitting on “comfy couches” with the “girls” or a “date”, you feel “transported” “directly to the Positano Coast” at this “sexy”, “airy” “Mediterranean dream” in Society Hill, where “oh-so-charming bartenders” mix “addictive” drinks; “excellently prepared” Italian fare is served in portions “adequate for sharing”, and “cheerful” servers won’t allow you to “leave the table until you are positively stuffed.”

Ristorante Panorama

23 22 23 ! $51 \ \ \

Old City | Penn’s View Hotel | 14 N. Front St. (Market St.) | 215-922-7800 | www.pennsviewhotel.com When you “want to impress someone”, this Italian in the Penn’s View Hotel in Old City is a “fly-me-to-the-moon” “destination” where “extremely knowledgeable” folks serve “superb” pastas in the “lovely” “dining room” and 120 wines by the glass and 27 tasting flights at the “busy bar”; the “boutique hotel right upstairs” is handy if the vino kicks in.

Ristorante Positano

N \ \ \ 20 20 21 ! $45

Ardmore | 21 W. Lancaster Ave. (bet. Ardmore & Cricket Aves.) | 610-896-8298 | www.positanoristorante.com A “cozy” setting graced with “original oil paintings” from the Amalfi coast and “great food without a lot of flash” are the hallmarks of this Southern Italian in Ardmore, where “those in-the-know” drop in to sit at the bar or outside in the pretty “alley”; stirred, not shaken, surveyors describe the “lemon drop martini” as “heaven in a glass.” vote at ZAGAT.com | 16


service

Saloon

24 21 23 ! $61 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Philadelphia

South Philly | 750 S. Seventh St. (bet. Catharine & Fitzwater Sts.) | 215-627-1811 | www.saloonrestaurant.net Regarded by many as the “gold standard” of Italian steakhouses after nearly 45 years, this “classic” South Philly “1970s old-boys club” is “good to its regulars”, who take their “expense accounts” and “best clients” “upstairs” for “great steaks” and “veal chops”, and the “people-watching” isn’t bad either (including some of the “best-looking servers in town”); though most insist it’s easy to “see the care taken to satisfy the customers”, some retort that “tried-and-true” sometimes lapses into “tired-and-true.”

27 26 26 ! $66 \ \ \

Savona

Gulph Mills | 100 Old Gulph Rd. (Rte. 320) | 610-520-1200 | www.savonarestaurant.com While Evan Lambert has freshened his “elegant” Italian “mainstay” in Gulph Mills, shrinking the “special-occasion” dining room, boosting the outside patio and expanding the bar, Main Liners still come for chef Andrew Masciangelo’s “Rolls-Royce” cuisine “at Kia pricing”; the “informative” staff provides “superb”, “consistent” service, while master sommelier Melissa Monosoff oversees a 1,000-bottle list housed in a “really cool wine cellar.”

Scoogi’s Classic Italian

19 16 19 ! $33 \ \ \

Flourtown | 738 Bethlehem Pike (Arlingham Rd.) | 215-233-1063 | www.scoogis.com “Plentiful portions” of “reliable”, “fairly priced” Italian “standards” suit “any mood” at this “comfortable” Flourtown bar/eatery that’s “good with kids” and a popular “last-minute” option on nights when “you don’t want to cook”; insiders opt for the ‘sun room’ when the “low-ceilinged” main dining room gets “too crowded” and “noisy.”

Table 31 =

21 21 19 ! $58 \ \ \

Logan Square | Comcast Ctr. | 1701 JFK Blvd. (17th St.) | 215-567-7111 | www.table-31.com Surveyors say Chris Scarduzio’s “sleek” Italian at the Comcast Center is “finally settling into a niche” with “solid” cooking, a “bargain” bar menu augmented by a “delectable wine selection” and a “quiet”, “urbane” “elegance” that “makes you feel special”; the “outdoor cafe” on the “plaza” “offers” an “unparalleled alfresco” experience for weekday lunch, and while many praise the “accommodating” staff, a few find service “hard to come by.”

Vetri =

28 23 27 ! $97 \ \ \

Washington Square West | 1312 Spruce St. (bet. Broad & 13th Sts.) | 215-732-3478 | www.vetriristorante.com A “religious experience” is how devotees describe Marc Vetri’s “splendid” Italian “splurge”, rated No. 1 for Food in Philadelphia and deemed a sure way to “impress your date” (or anyone) thanks to its “quaint” Wash West brownstone setting, “polished” service, “wonderful” wine pairings and “sublime” tasting menus (a $115 six-course served Mondays–Fridays and $135 eight-course on Saturdays); though most agree it’s “worth every penny”, you may want “a stiff drink just before the check arrives.” 17 | visit ZAGAT.com


Rome, Italy Family Dinners Checchino dal 1887 Checco er Carretiere Illicit Trysts Antico Arco Le Jardin de Russie Romolo nel Giardino della Fornarina Last Meal–Worthy Venues Cesar Imàgo Vivendo Post-Conquering Celebrations Costanza Glass Hostaria Provocative Scenes + Cuisine Casina Valadier Il Convivio Troiani Vecchia Roma Wine & Dine Spots Al Moro Brunello Lounge & Restaurant


service

Al Moro =

23 17 20 ! E \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Rome, Italy

Barberini | Vicolo delle Bollette 13 | (39-06) 678-3495 A former Fellini haunt and still a “favorite watering hole for Rome’s film moguls, pols and bigwigs”, this circa-1929 Italian boasts a “charming location in an alley near the Trevi Fountain”; “high-quality” ingredients, a “killer wine list”, “friendly service” and a “clublike” vibe make it an “all-around great choice.”

Antico Arco L

25 20 23 E \ \ \ !

Gianicolo | Piazzale Aurelio 7 | (39-06) 581-5274 | www.anticoarco.it It’s “off the beaten path”, up in the Janiculum Hill near the American Academy, but “young, beautiful” types still flock to this popular Italian thanks to its “innovative”, “decently priced” food, “exceptional wines” and “gracious service”; throw in a “hip vibe” and the experience is “special from entrance to exit.”

Brunello Lounge & Restaurant =

23 22 22 ! VE \ \ \

Via Veneto | Regina Hotel Baglioni | Via Veneto 70/A | (39-06) 421-111 | www.brunellorestaurant.com This very jet-set venue in the Via Veneto’s Regina Hotel Baglioni is named after the statusy Tuscan red, so it’s no surprise the “wines are wonderful” in both the lounge (“a must for checking out the sophisticated bar scene in Rome”) and the Italian-Med restaurant, serving “elegant” cuisine; the decor is either “unique” or “strange”, but all agree the “prices are high.”

Casina Valadier

19 23 21 ! VE \ \ \

Villa Borghese | Piazza Bucarest | (39-06) 6992-2090 | www.casinavaladier.it “One of the most breathtaking views of Rome” can be had from the terrace of this circa-1850 triplex on Villa Borghese’s Pincio Hill that’s been restored and reopened after closing over a decade ago; “quality” Italian food is served in an elegant, “atmospheric” setting replete with ancient brick walls and frescoed ceilings.

Cesar, The

24 25 24 ! VE \ \ \

Ladispoli | La Posta Vecchia Hotel | Localitá Palo Laziale Sud | (39-06) 994-9501 | www.lapostavecchia.com Set in a Renaissance castle in Ladispoli with Roman ruins visible in the wine cellar, this “destination” in La Posta Vecchia Hotel boasts one of the most “extraordinary” locations in Italy; even better, the “exceptional views” of the Tyrrhenian Sea are matched by the “special” Italian cooking and “perfetto” service, so although it’s “on the expensive side”, this “total experience” is worth it.

19 | visit ZAGAT.com


service

Checchino dal 1887 L = ~

23 17 21 ! VE \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Rome, Italy

Testaccio | Via di Monte Testaccio 30 | (39-06) 574-6318 | www.checchino-dal-1887.com Bring some “intestinal fortitude” to this circa-1887 Roman in Testaccio (the old slaughterhouse area), where the fifth generation of the Mariani family cooks “wonderfully prepared” versions of “traditional” dishes that often include organ meats or cast-off animal parts (like the tail); a “fantastic wine list” and “trip-back-in-time setting” complete the earthy experience.

Checco er Carretiere

23 20 21 ! E \ \ \

Trastevere | Via Benedetta 10-13 | (39-06) 581-7018 | www.checcoercarretiere.it Owned by the Porcelli family since 1935, this “big, bustling, boisterous” Roman in the heart of Trastevere serves up “solid” “authentic” dishes like deep-fried vegetables and roast lamb; the rustic, two-story setting is “warm” and “homey”, but alfresco fans prefer the “delightful patio in nice weather.”

Costanza =

23 20 22 ! M \ \ \

Campo dei Fiori | Piazza del Paradiso 63-65 | (39-06) 686-1717 | www.hostariacostanza.com At this cavernous, brick-walled stalwart in Campo dei Fiori – a “food-crazy part of the city” – the “excellent”, moderately priced menu spans many regions of Italy; but insiders insist its “wonderful” interior can’t be beat for atmosphere – you’re sitting in part of the ancient ruins of the Theatre of Pompeii, circa 63 B.C.

Glass Hostaria ~

24 21 21 ! E \ \ \

Trastevere | Vicolo del Cinque 58 | (39-06) 5833-5903 | www.glass-hostaria.com Foodies hit this modern Italian “hot spot” in Trastevere for chef Cristina Bowerman’s “outstanding”, “inventive” cuisine, which ranges from pasta stuffed with crispy cured pork cheeks to foie gras–stuffed ravioli; it’s also popular with aesthetes as it’s decidedly “design-oriented” – the “great-looking” ultramodern glass and metal elements play off the antique brick and wood of its original 17th-century structure.

Il Convivio Troiani =

24 22 23 ! VE \ \ \

Campo Marzio | Vicolo dei Soldati 31 | (39-06) 686-9432 | www.ilconviviotroiani.com “One of Rome’s best”, this “classy” Italian is located in Campo Marzio near Piazza Navona; “outstanding” traditional and modern dishes, “attentive service” and a “soigné setting” – three rooms decorated with frescoes and paintings – add up to a “pleasurable” evening; of course, the bill also adds up to something “very expensive.”

vote at ZAGAT.com | 20


service

Imàgo (fka Hassler Rooftop)

24 — 25 ! VE \ \ \

cost

food

decor

Rome, Italy

Trinitá dei Monti | Hotel Hassler | Piazza Trinità dei Monti 6 | (39-06) 699-34726 | www.imagorestaurant.com A “must for everyone who can afford it”, this International-Italian in the Hotel Hassler boasts a “commanding rooftop view of the Eternal City” from its “perch atop the Spanish steps”; “delicious” food, an “impressive wine list” and “wonderful service” add to the “rarefied experience”, but since it’s a “super-swank” hang for the “glitterati”, be prepared for “over-the-top prices and an over-the-top” evening; N.B. a post-Survey redo puts its Decor score in question.

Le Jardin de Russie

22 27 22 ! VE \ \ \

Piazza del Popolo | Hotel de Russie | Via del Babuino 9 | (39-06) 3288-8870 | www.hotelderussie.it A “private courtyard garden retreat populated by celebs” is the setting for this ItalianMediterranean in the “chic” Hotel de Russie; as added bonuses, the “pricey” food is “surprisingly good”, the room “stunning” and the people-watching “perfect” – and it’s “just steps from Piazza del Popolo.”

Romolo nel Giardino della Fornarina ~

23 22 22 ! E \ \ \

Trastevere | Via di Porta Settimiana 8 | (39-06) 581-8284 | www.romololafornarina.com One of the most romantic “walled garden” terraces in the city is found at this “lovely”, ivy-covered Roman set in a 16th-century Trastevere building where Raphael’s mistress, La Fornarina, once resided; today the original owner’s daughter continues to cook the kind of “good” “traditional favorites” that first drew devotees 50 years ago.

24 21 21 ! E \ \ \

Vecchia Roma

The Ghetto | Piazza Campitelli 18 | (39-06) 686-4604 | www.ristorantevecchiaroma.com “To feel like you are really in ‘Old Rome’” (how the name translates), check out this “wonderful” stalwart on the edge of the Ghetto offering “delicious” dishes like grilled baby calamari; the interior boasts “beautiful hand-painted murals”, but romantics revel in the softly lit, “quiet” piazza where “eating outside is a joy”; N.B. closed Wednesdays.

Vivendo =

26 27 25 ! VE \ \ \

Piazza della Repubblica | St. Regis Grand Hotel | Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando 3 | (39-06) 4709-2736 | www.stregis.com Voted No. 1 for Food in Rome is this Italian in the “magnificent” St. Regis Grand Hotel, where “exceptional” “creative” cuisine is served by a “flawless” team in a quietly “lavish” room adorned with satin fabrics and contemporary paintings; it all adds up to an experience that’s quite expensive and “exquisite in every way.”

21 | visit ZAGAT.com


San Francisco Family Dinners Capannina Ristorante Milano Illicit Trysts Bar Bambino Flour + Water Sociale Venticello Last Meal–Worthy Venues Acquerello Luce Post-Conquering Celebrations Perbacco Quince Ristorante Ideale Provocative Scenes + Cuisine Farina Incanto Wine & Dine Spots Poesia SPQR


service

Acquerello = ~

28 25 28 ! $84 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

San Francisco

Polk Gulch | 1722 Sacramento St. (bet. Polk St. & Van Ness Ave.) | 415-567-5432 | www.acquerello.com Ever “elegant”, this “enchanting” Italian in a “tranquil” converted chapel off Polk presents “glorious”, “masterfully prepared” prix fixe dinners complemented by a “daunting” but “extraordinary” wine list; “impeccable maitre d’ oversight” and “outstanding” “choreographed service” complete the picture, so even if it feels a bit “stodgy” to some – and “only the Medicis can afford” the bill – it offers an “exquisite” dining experience that remains “unequaled in the city”; P.S. jacket suggested.

Bar Bambino

23 21 21 ! $41 \ \ \

Mission | 2931 16th St. (Mission St.) | 415-701-8466 | www.barbambino.com This “postage stamp”–sized enoteca “hidden” on a somewhat “sketchy” stretch of the Mission lures “young twentysomethings” with its “exciting” selection of “super-tasty” salumi and cheese platters, “delicately prepared” pastas and “eccentric Italian wines”; though “scoring a table” on the weekend can be “as difficult as finding a parking space”, and the bill can “add up quickly”, its “upbeat” service and appealing patio make it “enjoyable” all around.

Capannina

25 20 23 $42 \ \ \ !

Cow Hollow | 1809 Union St. (Octavia St.) | 415-409-8001 | www.capanninasf.com The “charming”, “bantering” staff makes you feel like “long-lost family” at this “underhyped” Cow Hollow “sleeper” serving “satisfying pasta dishes” among other “delicious” Italian eats; with its “crowded-together” tables, it’s “warm, cozy” and “hopping”, and the prix fixe menu, served before 6 PM, is “a steal.”

Farina

24 22 20 ! $48 \ \ \

Mission | 3560 18th St. (Dearborn St.) | 415-565-0360 | www.farina-foods.com A “chic, modern” choice in the Mission, this “authentic” Italian promises a “food adventure” to Liguria, complete with highlights like “breathtaking Genovese pesto” (a “bright green” sauce that “dances” on the “silky” handmade pasta) and “stellar” wines; on the downside, tabs run a bit “high” and it’s “difficult to have a conversation” in the “noisy” interior, but the sidewalk seating is perfect for “sunny days.”

Flour + Water L

24 18 20 ! $41 \ \ \

Mission | 2401 Harrison St. (20th St.) | 415-826-7000 | www.flourandwater.com An “exceptional” newcomer, this “Mission phenom” “magically converts” its namesake ingredients into “inventive”, “soulful” pastas and “wood-fired” Neapolitan pies that are “definitely a contender in this year’s pizza playoffs”; a “middle-of-nowhere” locale and late-night hours “add to the mystique”, keeping even the “drop-in” communal tables “super-cramped”, though some surveyors are somewhat turned off by the “attitude” and “difficult” reservations. 23 | visit ZAGAT.com


service

Incanto

24 21 23 ! $54 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

San Francisco

Noe Valley | 1550 Church St. (Duncan St.) | 415-641-4500 | www.incanto.biz “Omnivorous adventurers” are “head-over-heels” about the “snout-to-tail cuisine” at this remote Noe Valley “gem” where “passionate” chef Chris Cosentino uses “every part of an animal” (“it’s not awful, it’s offal!”) in his “no-holds-barred” Northern Italian cooking; happily, “even the timid” find “wonderful pastas” and “incredible salumi” to enjoy, while “professional” service and “phenomenal” Boot wines make “expensive” tabs more palatable; P.S. a postSurvey refurb of the already “beautiful” space may not be reflected in the Decor score.

21 20 20 ! $67 \ \ \

Luce

SoMa | InterContinental Hotel | 888 Howard St. (bet. 4th & 5th Sts.) | 415-616-6566 | www.lucewinerestaurant.com “Despite Iron Chef finalist Dominique Crenn in the kitchen”, this “hip” “yet formal” CalItalian “near the convention center” at the InterContinental remains an “underrated” SoMa oasis for “exquisite presentations” of “well-balanced, modern” (some say “overly complicated”) fare, complete with a tasting menu and “extensive” wine list; “service is first-rate, but so are the prices”, so “going for lunch is a more value-oriented” option.

Perbacco =

25 22 23 ! $54 \ \ \

Downtown | 230 California St. (bet. Battery & Front Sts.) | 415-955-0663 | www.perbaccosf.com Still the “Downtown favorite” for “power lunches galore”, “after-work drinks” or a “night out”, this “energetic”, expensive “hot spot” draws “FiDi foodies” with “handmade pastas”, salumi and other “first-rate” Piedmontese specialties; “chic” decor, “professional” service and a “superlative Italian wine list” seal the deal, “but mamma mia, it’s noisy”, so gray hairs tend to “head upstairs to escape the din” while “gray suits” party on at the bar.

Poesia

21 18 23 ! $51 \ \ \

Castro | 4072 18th St. (bet. Castro & Hartford Sts.) | 415-252-9325 | www.poesiasf.com “Excellent” Southern Italian food, including “homemade limoncello” and other Calabresi specialties, makes this “cute”, “homey” walk-up” a “welcome blessing in the Castro”; if a few pose that the “overpriced” cucina is not exactly poetry in motion and complain that you might as well “take a gondola” “considering the parking”, for most the meals are “magical”, with the added eye-candy benefit of “good-looking”, “accented” staffers.

Quince

26 26 26 ! $85 \ \ \

Downtown | 470 Pacific Ave. (bet. Montgomery St. & Osgood Pl.) | 415-775-8500 | www.quincerestaurant.com Michael and Lindsay Tusk have taken their former Pacific Heights “charmer”, “to even greater heights” at this “sensational” Downtown locale, where the “posh” digs reflect the caliber of the nightly changing French-Italian fare and “impeccable service”; “yes, the portions are small” and there’s a “heavy sticker price”, but it’s “still a special place.” vote at ZAGAT.com | 24


service

Ristorante Ideale

24 15 22 ! $43 \ \ \

cost

food

decor

San Francisco

North Beach | 1309 Grant Ave. (Vallejo St.) | 415-391-4129 | www.idealerestaurant.com From “thin-style pizza” to the “freshest pasta outside of Italia”, the dishes aren’t “runof-the-mill” at this “superb” North Beacher that fans call the “perfect Roman trattoria”; though the “atmospheric” interior can get “cramped”, at least it’s “less touristy” than its neighbors, and the “delightful” servers create a “welcoming environment.”

Ristorante Milano

25 17 23 ! $43 \ \ \

Russian Hill | 1448 Pacific Ave. (bet. Hyde & Larkin Sts.) | 415-673-2961 |www.milanosf.com The “fantastic Italian staff” welcomes “strangers and regulars alike” as if they were “long-lost family” at this “charming” trattoria where the “amazing”, slightly expensive Northern Italian food is prepared with “enormous skill” and “served just so”; “tucked away on Russian Hill”, it’s “hidden” from out-of-towners, but the “intimate” space “bustles” with a loyal “following.”

Sociale =

23 21 23 ! $48 \ \ \

Presidio Heights | 3665 Sacramento St. (bet. Locust & Spruce Sts.) | 415-921-3200 | www.caffesociale.com “Hidden away” “down a walkway off Sacramento Street”, this “Presidio Heights charmer” is a “sweet spot” for “terrific”, upscale Northern Italian cucina (“pasta is a star”) and an “eclectic wine list that keeps things interesting”; “TLC” proffered by servers “from the moment you arrive” encourages “relaxing”, whether you’re seated in the “intimate” interior or more “romantic” heated patio “amid the flowers.”

24 18 21 ! $45 \ \ \

SPQR

Pacific Heights | 1911 Fillmore St. (bet. Bush & Pine Sts.) | 415-771-7779 | www.spqrsf.com “Roman specialties” “shine” at this “happening” Pac Heights osteria that’s “every bit the restaurant” as sib A16, with an “imaginative” new chef “taking it to exciting places”; “the waits are enough to make you challenge the person in front of you to a gladiatorial duel”, but easy to forget when sitting at the bar counting “tattoos” and racking up “soulful”, if slightly “pricey”, small plates (including “well-prepared offal”) with “fantastic” wines “you’d never drink at home”; P.S. “now they take reservations!”

Venticello

23 21 22 ! $50 \ \ \

Nob Hill | 1257 Taylor St. (Washington St.) | 415-922-2545 | www.venticello.com With “the clang of the cable cars going by” and “charming” servers who are “attentive without being intrusive”, this “inviting”, upscale trattoria “high up on Nob Hill” oozes “pure romance”; the “excellent” cooking and “extensive” wine list “transport you to Northern Italy in a nano-second” say admirers, while “awesome views” over the city toward the Bay Bridge are “so San Francisco.” 25 | visit ZAGAT.com


Sinfully Unforgettable Italian Restaurants