Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends


by Caroline Carter

3621 18th St. (between Dolores and Guerrero)
San Francisco 94110
(415) 552-4055

Cuisine: Seasonal Italian

Pluses: Simple, flavor-focused dishes; Outstanding service

Minuses: Always crowded; Parking in the neighborhood can be difficult if the pay lot is full

Don't Miss: Niman Ranch flatiron steak with french fries; Grilled fresh calamari with warm white bean salad; House-cured anchovies (really!)

Prices: Moderately expensive


Hours: Sun – Thurs 5:30 – 10pm; Fri – Sat 5:30 – 11pm Reservations highly recommended
Visa and MasterCard accepted
Limited parking at 18th and Valencia - $8 flat rate for up to 4 hours
Completely non-smoking


Any restaurant that unabashedly puts sardines, anchovies, duck giblets, and tripe on a single night’s menu either doesn’t know the favored tastes of most Americans, or is too successful to care. With high accolades from several national publications and a die-hard following in a town known for its foodies, Delfina offers diners an education in flavor, often relying on less popular ingredients that can intimidate the faint of heart.


Take, for example, the much maligned anchovy: usually a limp, grey sliver of flesh that’s more often plucked off of a Caesar salad or pizza than eaten, Delfina’s house-cured anchovies ($7.75) appear as though they were just harvested from the sea, silvery-fresh, with the sweet, briny flavor of a just-shucked oyster. A dollop of bright cucumber relish and a slice of toast round out the dish, offering delightful contrasts in flavor and texture.


For the less adventurous, the roasted Fulton Valley chicken with royal trumpet mushrooms ($16) arrives unadulterated, a simple preparation of chicken and mushrooms sitting in a light, earthy-flavored broth. The cup of Yukon gold mashed potatoes that accompanies the platter is perfect on its own – just like Mom used to make, but inexplicably better.


Delfina is not always perfect – regulars tend to agree that while one night might produce a bewitching meal, the next night can just as easily fall a little flat. That said, everyone agrees that what sets Delfina apart from the rest of the crowd, and what makes the off nights far easier to ignore, is its outstanding service. The young, tattooed wait staff attends to every detail with a graciousness and precision usually only seen at the most high-end establishments. Curious about what glass of wine to try with the buttery calamari? Your server might bring a generous flight of three Chardonnays to choose between before filling your glass. Swarms of waiters descend on a table when plates are served, offering fresh cracked pepper and grated parmesan before anyone can think to ask. The high level of service makes ordinary meals become special, and extraordinary meals become occasions that are long remembered.


While Delfina’s approximately 20 squeezed-together tables are usually reserved at least 1-2 weeks in advance, two bars allow spur-of-the-moment planners to walk in without much of a wait (30-60 minutes). If you still find yourself squeezed out of a table, you need only walk a few steps to find a great meal – Delfina’s owners have recently leased the space next door with plans to open an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria, and acclaimed neighbors Tartine Bakery, Bi-Rite market, and Platanos are also just steps away. Nonetheless, Delfina remains the star of the 18th Street foodie corridor – a must visit for any San Francisco food lover.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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