North Beach is San Francisco’s “Little Italy”. As such, you’re never more than a stone’s throw from an Italian restaurant in these parts. Most of them, as far as I’ve experienced, are relatively mediocre, as you might expect in a tourist-oriented area with an overabundance of one type of restaurant. Caffe Baonecci is a nice change of pace.
I’ve walked by this place literally hundreds of times, as it’s right in the thick of North Beach — on Green between Colombus and Union. It’s two doors down from the famed Golden Boy Pizza (which is amazing), and just steps away from a handful of other restaurants and bars. Caffe Baonecci is unassuming. It’s a pretty small restaurant on the corner that’s family owned, and doesn’t look particularly swanky or chic. In my opinion, this actually works in my favor since it keeps the hoards of tourists at bay, and allows me to enjoy a nice Italian dinner that is both delicious and not completely overwhelming.
I’m not actually sure how long the wait would have been this Friday night, because I rarely go anywhere popular without a reservation anymore. We had a 7pm rezzo, and our tiny table was waiting for us promptly. We ordered a bottle of wine ($37), a salad ($14), a pasta ($19), and a specialty pizza ($20). Their pizzas are super duper thin crust, and everything is home made (ok, I don’t think the pasta noodles are home made, but I’m not actually sure). Everything was great. I was totally jonesing for some carbs, and that meal certainly did deliver.
We started with a Burrata Salad, which was a very generous portion of burrata with delicious tomatoes. Next came the carbs — the Pasta Al Forno (baked) and Porcini and Arugula Pizza. The pizza was very good, but the pasta was the star dish for me. It was simple — large tube pastas baked with tomato sauce and cheese — but it really hit the spot. It was rich and tasty, and the portion was generous. We did not leave hungry.
I admit that I should try more Italian places in the area, but I’m happy to know there is at least one place whose food speaks louder than the praise in the tour books.