Nearly 20 years into the evolution of San Francisco's Mission District as The City’s food Mecca, Delfina is still going strong. As soon as Delfina opened in 1998, word on the street was about a new restaurant in a neighbourhood where few eateries were seen as dining destinations.
This unassuming, veritable store front is still turning out simply prepared Italian dishes with house-made pasta as early day fans just keep returning.
My dining companion and I opted for the open seating in the bar area rather than make reservations.
Although the crowd and the music are more hipster than the early days, the atmosphere at Delfina is always one of anticipation as diners fill the room to capacity.
Our waiter for the evening appeared quickly after seating, but it was challenging to attract him to our table as the place became more crowded. He was completely knowledgeable about the menu and wine list, which is necessary at Delfina because most items need line by line explanation, a tedium which can hamper dining pleasure and could be resolved by simply adding additional information on the menu.
While not an overwhelming menu, choice can be tough among tantalizing offerings and multiple courses.
We began our dining adventure with a Cocchi Americano & soda ($11.00) from the Aperitivi section of the menu and a glass of Chenin Blanc from the wine list ($12.00) At the same time, we made a selection from the Spuntini section of the menu - rustic Italian bread provided to Delfina by the acclaimed Tartine Bakery, literally located on the corner of the same block. It comes with house cultured butter ($4.00).
On to the Antipasti menu section where we ordered grilled Monterey Bay calamari ($14.00) on warm white bean salad punctuated by fronds of frisee and sprinkled with black olives. The beans were neither tough nor mushy and provided an excellent compliment to the fresh and tender squid.
Also from the Antipasti section, we ordered LaQuercia prosciutto Americana ($19.00) wrapped around belle vida peaches. Few things are more luscious than paper thin Italian ham paired with ripe, seasonal fruit.
From the Primi menu section, we ordered Delfina’s renowned and most popular pasta choice – spaghetti with plum tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and pepperoncini ($11.00). This meatless dish is blessed with the richness of summer tomato flavor and the highest quality ingredients. This is what true ”al dente” tastes like. Additionally, we could not pass up the gnocchi al ragu ($22.00) – delicate pillows of pasta with ground veal and pork in a red sauce.
In an effort to save ourselves for dessert, we bypassed heavier Secondi entrees such as sea bass, roast chicken or hanger steak, going for Delfina's to-die-for panna cotta with apricots ($9.00).
All total, our dining adventure was $135.00 for two, plus tip.
For an Italian inspired meal, Delfina is as authentic as any top of the list establishment in San Francisco.
3621 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 • 415-552-4055 • www.delfinasf.com
Open: 5.30 pm to 10.00pm - extended one hour on Fridays and Saturdays.
· 16th Street BART Station-3 blocks walking distance
· MUNI bus lines #22, #14, #49
· Uber or Lyft ride share
· Street parking very difficult. No valet. Parking garages www.parkinsf.com