Best New Italian Restaurant - 2002
With the exception of sushi houses, Italian restaurants are probably the most common venture for restaurateurs in this city. Sometimes they're good; often, they're not; and then, every once and again, we encounter a true gem like Sacramento Street's Sociale. Located in a quiet courtyard in the tony Laurel Heights district, this cozy trattoria/wine bar offers an unbeatable combination of friendly service, fine wines, and new-school Italian fare that could turn a person off Bolognese sauce forever. The olive fritte -- fried olives stuffed with mozzarella -- are a must. From there, we'd advise dining in the Italian style. Split a pasta -- perhaps the pappardelle with braised duck and porcini mushrooms -- then follow it with the superior brick-roasted chicken. One must have sfingi (a Sicilian doughnut served with vanilla gelato). If you really want to go whole hog, finish with a dessert wine, then wonder why more new Italian places aren't as spectacular as Sociale.