In fall 2022, Delfina—the local Cal-Italian legend in the Mission—reopened with a glam refresh. The dining room is now decked out with a shiny new bar, leather booths, and a gorgeous archway that makes part of the space feel like a swanky train station. But despite the chic redesign, the seasonal Italian dishes are a little snoozy.
We’ll start with the highlights. The menu covers standard seasonal small plates, pastas, a couple of pizzas, and mains. One standout is the iconic spaghetti—it’s one of the best things you’ll eat here, with tangy-sweet sauce and perfectly al dente pasta. Another is the housemade coppa di testa that melts in your mouth. And the pizzas arrive with crusts that are puffy and crackly. You’ll be compelled to head to their takeout-only sister spot next door, Pizzeria Delfina, to order a few more pies (they have more topping options) for later.
The rest of the food ranges from solid to good. Nothing overtly egregious is happening—although roasted duck and polenta arrive too salty, and some of the pastas, like the “hay and straw” with guanciale and an egg yolk, lack flavor. The price of your meal will also add up quickly. Pastas hover around $28, there’s a $150 steak on the menu, and a shallow dish or dispenser of olive oil you’ll want for your bread is an extra $4. Delfina might make you feel twinges of disappointment, considering there are so many other Cal-Ital places in town pumping out high-caliber seasonal pastas and pizzas.
Look past the glamor of the new space, and it’s easy to see why Delfina is one of those perfectly fine restaurants with a healthy amount of hits and misses. Twenty-something years after opening, Delfina isn’t the most exciting Cal-Italian option in SF. But it’s possible to come here for dinners with the parents or a cocktail-and-spaghetti meal alone at the bar, and have a pleasant time—just don’t expect to be wowed. When we want to have our lives changed by a bowl of pasta, there are spots like Cotogna, Penny Roma, or Itria that we’d hit up first.
Pane a Pala
The focaccia-like bread is good, but nothing special. It’s also served plain, unless you ask for a side of olive oil. Sometimes staff will tell you that the oil is an added charge, and other times they won’t. Mentally prepare—that’ll be $4, please.
Coppa di Testa
Thinly sliced so it melts in your mouth, this housemade head cheese is a great way to start.
A lovely bowl of spaghetti, and one with a cult following for a reason. Order this with a glass of wine, and you’ll leave happy.
Hay and Straw
Half of the tonnarelli is tinted green from spinach, and this tangle of pasta comes with a perfect egg yolk on top. Presentation points aside, it lacks flavor. At $29, feel free to skip.
There’s mortadella draped across the top of this white pie, but the meat feels a little disjointed from the pickled peppers underneath. The crust, though, strikes a balance between charred and chewy.