Beginnings and Endings


But the desserts are just about as dazzling and exotically toothsome as the openers. The granita, which changes with the seasons, is a big, beautiful snowball layered (in our case) with a compote of blood oranges, flavored throughout with sparkling wine from the Old Country, and scattered (for good measure) with fresh rose petals. It's a sweet, refreshing confection and the best example of the genre this side of Angelo Brocato's in New Orleans. The biscotti platter isn't as successful -- the cookies themselves are dry, even for biscotti -- but it comes with a tiny example of the house's sublime tiramisu: creamy, boozy, and jazzy all at once. The panna cotta ("cooked cream" to the uninitiated) is terrific: denser than your typical high-end custard and with a brisk citrus-almond subtext reminiscent of marzipan. The candied almonds sprinkled on top add crunch to the otherwise suave texture. Best of all is the crème brûlée trio, three miniature chocolate-edged versions including one in fluffy white and another in rich dark. The outstanding one, though, is the one in the middle: a jet-black crème infused with sage. You wouldn't believe how well the combination works: The dessert has the earthy, herbal quality of a sweet tapenade, and the sage underscores the chocolate in the same suggestive way that chocolate warms up a good mole sauce. The perfect complement is a large, fanlike cracker of black chocolate studded with minced olive: Like the sage crème and the trout with fennel and the brandade with Johnny-jump-ups, it's innovative, it's unexpected, it's delicious, and it works. Now about that farfalle ....

No Lie: Pinocchio's Columbus Avenue digs let you pretend you're on the 
Piazza San Marco.
Anthony Pidgeon
No Lie: Pinocchio's Columbus Avenue digs let you pretend you're on the Piazza San Marco.

Location Info


Trattoria Pinocchio

401 Columbus
San Francisco, CA 94133

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: North Beach/ Chinatown


Negroni -- $6.50

Grilled baby octopus -- $10

Salt cod brandade -- $8

Braised Sonoma rabbit -- $19.25

Roasted black bass -- $26

Seasonal granita -- $7

Crème brûlée trio -- $7.50

Open for lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.

Reservations accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Parking: inconceivable. Muni: 15, 30, 41, 45

Noise level: pleasant

401 Columbus (at Vallejo)


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Italian reds dominate the rather pricey hundred-item wine list. (Two-thirds of the bottles are over $40.) There are several treasures available to go with your meal -- the 1997 Sagrantino Caprai out of Umbria, for instance -- and the whites include Friuli's autumn-crisp Livon Braide pinot grigio. Chauvinists can content themselves with one of the cellar's 30 California offerings, and the cash-conscious can choose from 18 half-bottles and 13 wines by the glass.

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