The counter seating made me long for Vanessi's, a late, lamented San Francisco landmark joint that rewarded both tourists and locals with hearty pastas and grilled steaks and chops thrown together before their hungry eyes. As the table of four Spanish-speaking guys behind us left and were replaced by three Slavs, I remembered the time Wendy and I arrived at our carefully chosen restaurant in Florence, only to find it inexplicably closed. Hungry and tired, we stumbled into an uninspiring, touristy-looking trattoria across the square with three prix-fixe menus posted in the window, and had one of the best meals of our ten days in Tuscany. A tourist's dumb luck.

If you bring the offspring, ask for a box of crayons and the build-your-own pizza.
Jen Siska
If you bring the offspring, ask for a box of crayons and the build-your-own pizza.

Location Info


Puccini & Pinetti

129 Ellis
San Francisco, CA 94102

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Union Square/ Financial District


Puccini and Pinetti

392-5500, Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m., and Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: Street, difficult. Muni: 9, 16AX, BX, 27, 31, 38, F, J, K, L, M, N, T. Noise level: Moderate to high.

Winter antipasti $15

Spaghetti and meatballs $18

Sea scallops with risotto $26

Veal piccata $24

Build-your-own pizza (kids' menu only) $9

Chocolate-cherry crème brûlée $7

129 Ellis (at Cyril Magnin)

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As we left the considerable remains of the chocolate-cherry-port crème brûlée, which tasted of none of its ingredients, I thought of the run of brilliant Italian places that have opened in San Francisco recently: Perbacco, La Ciccia, Bar Bambino, Farina, SPQR. Puccini and Pinetti is charging as much or more as they do (mains run $20-$29), and for much less ambitious and interesting food. But it's located in a nest of hotels, and finding the other places requires a little research, reservations, and transportation. More than dumb luck.

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