The 9 Best SF Restaurants For Pasta guide image


The 9 Best SF Restaurants For Pasta

When you’re dead set on eating some carbohydrates and sauce, let this guide be your roadmap.

While we’re not going to stop you from busting out a box of Annie’s and eating it straight out of the pot, we will let you know that there are tons of better options when you’re in the mood for pasta—like going to one of these restaurants that specialize in turning flour and water into magic. Whether you’re looking for bolognese with 60-month-aged parmigiano reggiano or a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, head to these spots.



The ravioli carbonara at Ciccino is cozy comfort in pasta form, an SF Pasta Greatest Hit, and perfect to the infinity power. The ravioli is a rich, cream-and-egg-yolk-filled al dente envelope. As for the rest of the pasta? You should order them all, including the pretty satisfying lamb ragout or any of the light, bright seafood-y pastas. And since this place has charm for days and a great wine selection, this Nob Hill spot should always be top of mind.

The pasta circle of life is on full display at this tiny spot in the Inner Richmond. By day, this place functions as a pasta shop where you can buy housemade noodles and sauces, and at night, it transforms into a pasta dinner extravaganza with a tight menu of simple yet perfectly executed pasta dishes. Come in for dinner and you’ll watch staff roll out fresh yellow sheets of dough as you patiently await the arrival of your maltagliata in silky pesto, corn raviolini dotted with fried peppercorns, and spaghetti tossed in slightly spicy lobster butter. Maybe snag a tub of that pesto to go, too. 

The pastas at this Sardinian restaurant in Noe Valley lean heavily on seafood, from squid ink fettuccine to fusilli with grated tuna hearts. You could throw the names of every dish in a salad spinner, pull one out at random, and easily end up with something fantastic. If you’re plagued with indecision, go for the spaghetti—simplicity at its finest with just spicy olive oil, garlic, and cured fish roe. It’s also light enough that you won’t feel like knocking right out when you’re done. 

Itria is a Mission restaurant and raw bar that manages to make their menu of pastas seem fresh and exciting. Everything at this rustic, wood-and brick-filled spot changes depending on the seasons—but expect to pair things like oysters and bluefin tuna tartare with ragu-coated gramigna and orecchiette with grilled rabe pesto and sausage. The fact that the dishes on the menu rotate out so often is actually the excuse you need to return monthly.   

Finding a great pasta dish for under $15 can feel daunting. But at this counter-service spot in North Beach, it’s entirely possible. This spot is a choose-your-own-adventure situation. You pick from pastas like tagliatelle or gnocchi (most are $10-$12) and add on a sauce for a couple more bucks. The bolognese is extra hearty and filling, and it’s hard to go wrong with their pesto or butter and sage. There are locations in Cow Hollow and Hayes Valley, but we like this original North Beach spot best—it’s got a “pasta lab” in the back where you can see everyone hand-making noodles.

The ricotta-filled raviolo from Cotogna has a cult following, like Croc charms. It’s face-sized, highly photogenic, and the yolk inside oozes out like lava when you cut it open. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the best pastas on the menu, and only one reason to get to this Italian spot in the Financial District. One more? Incredible, seasonally changing pastas, like corn triangoli and sunchoke tortello, that’ll miraculously ease your anxieties about the passage of time.  

If a Pasta Hall of Fame museum existed, an entire gallery would be dedicated to Flour + Water. Since 2009, the Mission restaurant has been churning out pasta dishes made with ingredient combinations that make no sense on paper, but actually work—like corn and chocolate or lobster and fig. The best part is they’re the only SF spot we know of with a pasta tasting menu that’s a 10-course carb spectacle. It will definitely involve at least two pasta shapes you’ve never heard of.  

The sister spot from the Flour + Water team focuses on more traditional Italian pasta dishes, like bolognese and cacio e pepe. And you should expect nothing less than al dente perfection from the Maude Apatow of pasta restaurants. If it’s on the menu, get the rigatoni all’amatriciana—the slightly spicy tomato sauce and guanciale snuggled inside the pasta tubes gush out with every bite. 

We actually prefer the pastas at Che Fico Alimentari to the ones at the flashier sister spot upstairs, Che Fico. The portions of the traditional Italian dishes are heartier and more consistent. Think decadent rigatoni carbonara, thick spaghetti piled with peppery guanciale, and pappardelle coated in a rich boar ragu. One bite of any pasta on the menu will likely send your brain into overdrive. The fact that you can snag a reservation or seat at the bar pretty easily is also a major plus.

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photo credit: Stephanie Court

The 9 Best SF Restaurants For Pasta guide image