There is, quite simply, too much great pasta in the Bay Area. In submitting our nominations for today's feature, Pasta Porn: 101 of Americas Most Delicious Noodle Dishes, we at Grub Street San Francisco found ourselves angling to have our corner of the country occupy about a third of the national list, and that, our cohorts in New York said, just wasn't fair. The dishes that made that list, while great, by no means reflect all the amazing and varied regional pastas around town and around the Bay especially from the many restaurants that delve deeply into specific regions of Italy like Perbacco (Piemonte), Da Flora (Venice), Bar Bambino (Friuli), and Farina (Liguria) and thus we had to do our own feature to recognize a group of dishes that all belong on a best list, but for reasons of interstate diplomacy, had to be cut to get the list down to 101. (Now we know how Bauer feels!) Here they are, in alphabetical order by restaurant. Now, please forgive us but we're going on an indefinite carb fast.
Fregula With Asparagus, Almond, Meyer Lemon
A16, San Francisco
2355 Chestnut Street
Newly installed chef David Taylor is doing a delicious spring preparation of fregula — the toasted pearl pasta that he imports from Puglia is the only pasta on his menu that's not made in-house. The dish includes a light creamy sauce of pecorino and mascarpone, and is brightened by the addition of Meyer lemon zest. Crunchy almonds contrast beautifully with the tender, equally nutty fregula.
Ridged Pasta With Foie Gras and Marsala
Acquerello, San Francisco
1722 Sacramento Street
415.567.5432; Part of a multi-course tasting menu starting at $64
One of the only dishes to have stayed on the menu year after year at 22-year-old Acquerello is this decadent dish of rigatini (small rigatoni), and with good reason. It's the kind of sauce you can't stand to run out of and want to lick clean — the perfect mix of foie gras, cream, black truffle, and marsala, with no single ingredient overpowering the other. All of Acquerello's pastas are excellent, but this is the one you dream about afterward. (Selected by Marcia Gagliardi, of Tablehopper fame.)
Spaghetti With Braised Lamb Shoulder, Mint, and Peas
Bar Agricole, San Francisco
355 11th Street
An amazingly simple but stunning dish from chef Brandon Jew, combining spring flavors of lamb, mint, and peas with a touch of chili flake and parmesan to make something incredibly layered, sophisticated, and Californian.
Goat-cheese-ricotta-semolina Malfatti with Black Kale and Walnuts
Bar Bambino, San Francisco
2931 16th Street
At one point they were calling them topfenknodel, which is what they'd be called in parts of Friuli and Tyrol, and to avoid customer confusion they changed the menu description to say "dumplings," but as owner Christopher Losa says, "Anywhere else in Italy these would be malfatti," or malformed gnocchi. The semolina gives them structure, but these comforting, onion-y wonders from the German-influenced corner of northeastern Italy are unique even in a city rich with specifically regional Italian menus. Paired with kale, a light vinegar-based sauce, and walnuts, they speak to a type of fusion cuisine we long to learn more about.
Orecchiette with Cavolo Nero and Sausage
Barbacco, San Francisco
220 California Street
These little ears of pasta, served with black-leaf kale and fennel sausage, are a classic dish in the Northern Italian canon, but chef Staffan Terje's version at his Roman off-shoot of Perbacco are brilliantly bright and flavorful, garnished generously with Pecorino. We'd even argue this dish rivals Lupa's version with broccoli rabe
Saffron Risotto With Osso Bucco
Beretta, San Francisco
1199 Valencia Street
One of the best dishes of risotto we tried, complimented by one of Beretta's excellent cocktails, was this bowl of saffron risotto topped with a rich almost-ragu of veal osso bucco. Risotto purists might balk at all that distraction on top, but this risotto, cooked perfectly al dente and beautifully creamy, is made all the heartier with the addition of the meat, and we probably wouldn't call ourselves purists with regard to anything.
Farm-Egg Tagliatelle With Duck Sugo
Bistro Aix, San Francisco
3340 Steiner StreetStreet
Chef-owner Jonathan Beard makes some of critic Patricia Unterman's favorite pasta, and the one she calls out in particular is his simple spaghettini with tomato sauce, which she calls his "Cinderella dish." We prefer the tagliatelle, which varies a bit by season — pictured here, it's with a duck sugo and morels, but he also tosses it with coq au Riesling and matsutakes, or something similar, depending on the week.
Ricotta Gnocchi With House-Cured Lamb Belly
The Blue Plate, San Francisco
3218 Mission Street
Blue Plate remains one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants in town, and these ricotta gnocchi, light as can be, are a shining example of why we still love the place. Here they're paired with crunchy scarlet turnips and some divine cured lamb belly, and doused in a deeply flavorful lamb jus.
Tagliolini With Dungeness Crab
Cotogna, San Francisco
490 Pacific Street
Pastas take a starring roll at Quince's casual little sister, and by all accounts they're just as amazing — if not so daintily plated — as they are at Quince. The tagliolini with Dungeness crab may not be on the menu much longer, but fear not: you seriously can't go wrong with any of the ever-changing fresh pasta options (Jonathan Kauffman at the Weekly is especially a fan of the pappardelle with oven-braised lamb, if you happen to catch that one).
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Da Flora, San Francisco
701 Columbus Avenue
At this cozy Venetian restaurant with a touch of Hungarian influence (owner Flora Gaspar is of Hungarian descent), the sweet potato gnocchi have long been a signature. The well-seasoned cream sauce is flavored with sage, brown butter, and pancetta, and it's another of those lick-the-plate-clean situations. This dish has been called out more than once by the citizen reviewers on Check Please! Bay Area, and Tablehopper's Marcia Gagliardi also named this as one of her favorites in town.
Delfina, San Francisco
3621 18th Street
James Beard Award-winning chef Craig Stoll says you can find dishes of the large tubular paccheri pasta like this, in various seafood ragus, up and down the Western coast of Italy. Stoll's version, made with true cod and a rich, wine-y tomato sauce with seafood stock as its base, is as good as any you'd have in Amalfi, we'd wager.
Fettucine Alfredo With Pancetta
Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, San Francisco
18 Virginia Street at Mission
While the spaghetti and meatballs at this twelve-year-old outer-Mission hang is cheap and solid, our favorite is the similarly no-frills fettucine alfredo, which is hearty, cheesy, well seasoned, and accented with a generous handful of smoky, pan-fried chunks of pancetta.
Mandilli Di Seta Al Pesto Struffuggae
Farina, San Francisco
3560 18th Street
One of the finest plates of pasta in town is also, perhaps not coincidentally, one of the most expensive. Opening chef Paolo Laboa won a competition in Italy for his Genovese basil pesto, and here it dresses some delicate and tender handkerchief pasta, just the way (allegedly), Laboa's mother used to make it. It is wildly delicious, but you'll have to get over the sticker shock to enjoy it.
Flour + Water, San Francisco
2401 Harrison Street
Easily the most delightful pasta shape we encountered on our pasta tour, these ravioli made in the shape of wrapped candies or caramels — hence, caramelle — came filled with a light, lemony ricotta and were topped with toasted pine nuts, pea tendrils, Meyer lemon zest, and butter. We thought the restaurant deserved a second mention with these, since chef Thomas McNaughton, who's up for a James Beard Rising Star award, can do no wrong when it comes to pasta.
Trottoloni With Asparagus and Meyer Lemon
Frances, San Francisco
3870 17th Street
This extruded pasta, which is almost the shape of those environmentally friendly, corkscrew, fluorescent light bulbs, gets a bright spring treatment by chef Melissa Perello with a buttery mascarpone-cream sauce, lemon, chives, and toasted walnuts. It's filling without feeling heavy, and the nuts pair especially well with the asparagus, adding great texture.
Bacon, Egg and Cheese Mac
400 40th Street
Owners and co-chefs Erin Wade and Allison Arevalo recently opened this buzzing temple of mac-and-cheese on a quiet stretch of 40th Street in Oakland, and it's already adding quite a bit of noise, especially from neighborhood twentysomethings in search of a cheap and satisfying dinner. Our favorite among their baked mac-and-cheese concoctions is the bacon-and-cheddar combo topped with bread crumbs and a fried egg. We'd eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Agnolotti dal Plin
Osteria Coppa, San Mateo
139 South B Street
Chef Chanan Kamen, who turns out to be Michael Tusk's cousin and recently left the pasta station at Quince to open his place on the Peninsula, is making some of Patricia Unterman's favorite pastas these days. She writes, "His pasta dishes, like his mentor's, are all about the noodle — noodles that have such springy, teasing yet satiny texture, they enthrall the mouth." Our favorite are the Piemonte-style agnolotti filled with roast pork, guinea hen, and veal, and lightly sauced with chicken jus, butter and parmesan. But you can hardly go wrong with his excellent Bolognese, or his tajarin with black truffle butter (Patty's fave).
Raviora With Meyer Lemon, Ricotta, and Asparagus
Perbacco, San Francisco
230 California Street
We can't come up with any more accolades for the pasta at Perbacco, but suffice it to say it deserves a second mention here, after the national list, for a spring-y dish we had recently from chef Staffan Terje. These delicate ravioli ("raviora" is just "ravioli" in Piemontese dialect) are stuffed with lemon-y ricotta, and plated atop a minty asparagus passatina.
Farro Gamelli With Wild Mushrooms, Nettles, and Ricotta
5008 Telegraph Avenue
Pizza may be the star at Charlie Hallowell's fraternal twin restaurants Pizzaiolo and Boot & Shoe Service, but his pastas are noteworthy too. We recently loved these earthy, farro-based gamelli tossed with onion, chanterelle mushrooms, nettles, and topped with the freshest of fresh ricotta.
Spinach-Ricotta Gnudi With Beef Ragu
The star of Poggio's always changing pasta menu has long been these light little ricotta "pillows" in a rich beef sauce. Michael Bauer commends chef Peter McNee for keeping up the quality at his eight-year-old Sausalito restaurant, and he's a big fan of the buckwheat tagliatelle with braised oxtail and horseradish gremolata.
Spaghetti With Seafood Sauce
Rose Pistola, San Francisco
532 Columbus Avenue
At fifteen-year-old Rose Pistola in North Beach, the menu has come back around to being more solidly Ligurian — it had strayed from its original, regional focus in the last few years — and one of the house specialties on the seafood-heavy menu is this bowl of spaghetti tossed with a well seasoned tomato-based seafood sauce, and a generous helping of calamari, mussels, salmon, and halibut.
Saffron Garganelli With Harissa Sausage
Vin Antico, San Rafael
881 Fourth Street
One of the most welcome and flavorful surprises we had on our pasta tour was this delicious, ultra-bold bowl of pasta from chef Ed Vigil. He starts his sauce with an unconventional mirepoix of turnips, carrot, and celery root and layers in a dozen or so spices, as well as house-made harissa sausage and an herb-rich chicken jus. It's highly nontraditional, and wildly delicious.
Casareccia with Short-Rib Ragu and Horseradish Gremolata
Zero Zero, San Francisco
881 Fourth Street
Executive chef-owner Bruce Hill and chef de cuisine Chris Whaley have a hit on their hands with Zero Zero based on the pizza, cocktails and the design-your-own sundaes alone. But the pastas the kitchen's been doing are worthy of foodgasms too, especially these delicious little spears of pasta tossed with a rich short-rib ragu, red onion, crème fraiche, and topped with horseradish gremolata. Once we're over our pasta hangover, we will definitely be ordering this again.
Most Viewed Stories
Above the Fray: How Restaurants Become Impervious to Criticism
Burrata Everywhere: 24 Places to Eat Everyone’s Favorite Menu Item
First Look at Empellon al Pastor, Now Open in the East Village
McDonald’s Figures Out That People Sort of Hate Going to McDonald’s
World Decides Deep-Fried Candy Corn Is One Step Too Far
Introducing Le Fond, an Ambitious French Bistro Moonlighting As a Casual Brooklyn SpotAll openings »
Gordon Ramsay at the London Is Finally, Mercifully, ClosingAll closings »
Search by name
Or, search by
Latest News on Grub StreetHere Are the 2015 Michelin Stars for San Francisco; Benu and Saison Both Get Major Upgrades
Chefs Corey Lee and Joshua Skenes join the three-star club.Restaurant Posts Somber ‘Obituary’ After Upstairs Neighbor Kills the Business
"Cause of death: The HMO owner who did not fix a leak."McDonald’s Figures Out That People Sort of Hate Going to McDonald’s
The megachain's profits take a dive while Chipotle just keeps on killing it.A Man Claims His Golden Corral Chili Contained a Snaggletoothed Rat Head
"I was like, 'Maybe, you know, sometimes you get a hard bean inside.'"Burrata Everywhere: 24 Places to Eat Everyone’s Favorite Menu Item
It's the new bacon.Cappuccino Chips Are, Thankfully, No Longer Happening
Wasabi Ginger has won Lay's "Do Us a Flavor" contest in an apparent landslide, and no one is demanding a recall.L.A.’s Top Round Roast Beef Plans to Open in NYC, and Everywhere Else
Bring on the Beef on Wecks, Provel-topped steak sandwiches, and gravy-topped dirty fries.World Decides Deep-Fried Candy Corn Is One Step Too Far
"Those four words in THAT order? NAW."Above the Fray: How Restaurants Become Impervious to Criticism
To be above a certain threshold is to enter a kind of realm of immortality and myth, immune to the random quibbles of everyday life.Here’s an Entire Japanese New Year’s Feast That Comes in a Pokemon Ball
Choose this Poké Ball and get 26 traditional osechi dishes for $136.
"Trust and believe I'm capitalizing."First Look at Empellon al Pastor, Now Open in the East Village
Alex Stupak has flung open the doors of his much-anticipated bar-tortilleria in the East Village.Eataly’s Wine Shop Makes a Triumphant Return
The celebration includes free glasses of sparkling wine tonight.The Race to Create America’s Premier Carbonated Cold Brew
The Austin-based company Coffer has already attracted attention from coffee industry heavyweights.Ben & Jerry’s Defends Its ‘Hazed & Confused’ Ice Cream
The company told angry parents nothing about it "condoned hazing, supported hazing, or even inferred hazing."Yotam Ottolenghi on Instant Ramen, Plenty More, and His Secret Candy Stash
"People are becoming quite precious about what they eat."New York Taste Returns Next Month
Our annual culinary extravaganza happens November 10 with more than 40 of New York's best chefs and restaurants.The 10 Best Lines From Jay Rayner’s Brutal Steakhouse Takedown
"The most unintentionally funny restaurant to open in London in a very long time."Danny Meyer’s Untitled at the Whitney Closed in Advance of Its Move Downtown
The Breuer building is closed, but the huckleberry pancakes will be back in May of 2015.The 12 Best Garlicky Dishes in New York Right Now
Now is not the time to worry about minty-fresh breath.
"People don't really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories," says a researcher who thinks the number-board system of listing calorie counts is not effective.New York Attorney General Sues Papa John's Franchisee for Labor Violations
A franchisee with four Manhattan locations not only allegedly cheated its employees out of hourly wages, it forced them to pay for their own bicycles, helmets, safety gear.Some Poor Waitress Had to Tell President Obama That His Credit Card Was Declined
"Turns out I guess I don't use it enough."Starbucks Gets One Step Closer to Having Your Drinks Ready the Moment You Arrive
It won't be long before the Starbucks app knows everything about you, but at least your drink will be hot when you get these.Grub Street’s Restaurant Power Rankings: Take Root, Marta, and More
Find out where to eat in Grub Street's weekly ranking of the city's most-buzzed-about restaurants.French Bakery Maman Sells NYC’s Most Impressive New Chocolate-Chip Cookie
It's made by a Michelin-starred chef.Garrett Oliver to David Chang: Shut Up About Crappy Beer Already
"Dear Dave, I'm a little worried about you."Kate Mara Grabs Coffee at La Colombe; Mindy Kaling and Malcolm Gladwell Party at the Standard
This week's Celebrity Settings.Jamie Oliver Faces Backlash After Hiring a Convicted Rapist
The celebrity chef's team defends their decision, saying that David Mason served his time and deserves a shot at rehabilitating his life.Introducing Delancey & Co, London’s First Lower East SideThemed Takeout Shop
It may be British, but there is lox on the bagels.
"I got my regular order: meatloaf with Creole sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, fried green tomatoes, white beans, corn pudding, and sweet tea."A Lot of People Were Outraged by Michael Ruhlman’s Response to a ‘Shrill’ Times Essay
"I like girls in kitchen a lot: it does bring that testosterone level down a little bit, it makes it not so aggressive," a British chef said recently.Pharrell Williams’s Ubiquity Now Extends to Fancy French Macarons
He and Ladurée have made peanut-butter and cola macarons.Eating Vegan Ice Cream With Jason Schwartzman and Director Alex Ross Perry
"It's hard for me to relate to people who don't have a huge sweet tooth."This Coffee-Making Robot Is the World's Worst Barista
It can whip up a Nespresso in about three minutes.Animal Rights Group Blasts Starbucks for Using Eggs From ‘Cruel Farms’
Despite claims that they're "ethically purchased and responsibly produced."Thug Kitchen Is Officially a Best Seller
It's also No. 1 on Amazon's best seller list of vegan cookbooks.11 Places to Find Fancy Hummus
Truffle hummus at Claudette, burnt-jalapeño hummus at Empéllon Cocina, and more.Mayor de Blasio Is Still Quietly Trying to Ban Your Soda
He's holding "high-level meetings" on "the best way to reach that goal."See How 7 Fast-Food Burgers Rot (or Don’t) Over Time
The burgers all look pretty horrible to begin with; at least the month-old ones have penicillin.
Chips and curry sauce, naan, and rice and pickle are on the menu.Against All Reasonable Odds, a Man Insists This Giant Mouse Was in His McDonald’s Coffee
It was a total "surprise" when he took the lid off.19 Defining Moments in the History of Yogurt
Congratulations, New York, you have a new state snack.Here’s a Start-up That Promises to ‘Age’ Whiskey Instantly
Why put the whiskey into the barrel when you can put the barrel into the whiskey?‘Veggie-Forward’ Williamsburg Pop-Up Chez José Is Reborn As Brick-and-Mortar Semilla
Chef José Ramírez-Ruiz, who has worked at Per Se and Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, will serve a $75 prix-fixe at his restaurant's 18-seat U-shaped bar.Restaurant’s Waitstaff Quits Midday, Alleging Racism and Way Too Many Flying Bugs
He allegedly fired people for being black, old, or fat.Why James Oseland Left Saveur to Clean Chicken Coops
"I closed all the blinds in the apartment, turned off the TV, lit a couple candles ... "The NYPD Thinks a Yelper May Have Smoke-Bombed Bar Pitti
"They're looking for stuff like, 'This place sucks and I'm going to blow this f--king place up.'"Keith McNally Swears Pastis Will Reopen in the Meatpacking District in 2016
The restaurateur says he's got a location on Gansevoort Street.Esquire Names America’s Best New Restaurants for 2014
Brooklyn's Take Root is "an oasis of passion, a crack in the rock of a cynical world."