Welcome to Firenze by Night, where even by day when the sun is shining, red and white cotton checkered cloths cover sidewalk tables beneath colorful umbrellas. Diners sip full-bodied Chianti to accompany plates of award-winning gnocchi served by smiling wait staff dressed in traditional whites.The cheerful scene is neither in Florence nor in Disneyland, but rather at an authentic, family-owned restaurant in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach Italian neighborhood.
New awards are accumulated year after year. Named to the top three Italian restaurants in San Francisco by readers of the 2014 “SF City Voter A List,” Firenze by Night is serving award-winning pasta dishes made from family recipes passed down through generations. Together with the friendly service, that’s two reasons why they’ve been receiving rave reviews from San Francisco locals and visitors for decades. In fact, the father and son team still cook together in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Can you say “Pappardelle Toscana fatte in casa con sugo di cinghiale?” It’s home-made pappardelle with wild boar ragu Tuscany-style, and it’s delicious. And just to make that pasta decision among 15 featured ones even more difficult, how about the famous Gnocchi Firenze, potato dumplings in a light tomato cream sauce? More decisions loam; tomato cream sauce can be replaced by pesto, meat or another of your favorite sauces.
While contemplating that pasta decision, start off with some stuffed mushrooms, tender calamari vinaigrette or perhaps carpaccio. Popular, authentic soups, salads and appetizers, from the house antipasto to grilled zucchini, that spell out “Italia” are on the menu.
The menu that reads like a book is no exception when it comes to fish and meat specialties. Sorry, but there are still another 15 choices to be considered, including what’s fresh from the daily market. Speaking of daily specials, ask your waiter for the dessert of the day, if you dare, as no one promised a zero calorie treat.
Downhill the slopes from the landmark Coit Tower, in the heart of San Francisco’s historic North Beach, Firenze by Night Ristorante is easily accessible from Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, Downtown, Chinatown, Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill. Muni buses 30, 45, and 8X stop right nearby. Or, take the Powell-Mason line cable car stopping only two blocks from the restaurant.Of course, be aware that parking is notoriously tricky in the small streets and alleyways of San Francisco’s little Italy. Like many of the nation’s most authentic, historic neighborhoods, that pedestrian lifestyle is part of the local charm.
Walk-ins are welcome, but it’s best to reserve in advance when you’re headed for the famous comedy musical, “Beach Blanket Babylon” live performance at Fugazi Theater. Firenze by Night is only a two-minute walk from the show, and ranks very high on the list of favorite pre-and post-theater dining spots.