Whether you care about semolina grades or not, odds are high that you’ve heard of Flour + Water. Since 2009, this Cal-Italian spot in the Mission has been leading the unofficial campaign to make pasta not predictable. They maintain high-level carb perfection, all while mashing together flavors you’d never think to combine (much less put on pasta)—it’s the reason to keep Flour + Water high on your bucket list.
For a spot that breaks your brain with dimension-altering pasta—and has cemented its place as one of SF's quintessential restaurants—it keeps things pretty casual. A meal here is like going to a friend's home for Sunday dinner, and eating surrounded by candlelight, earthy walls, timeless yet sneakily expensive dinnerware, and a fish mural. It’s a warm and fuzzy feast that doesn’t need fireworks or dramatics to impress.
The pasta menu changes daily and emphasizes whatever’s in season. Just don’t go in expecting to see shapes you'd find in a Safeway aisle. Instead, you’ll devour mezzalune with perfectly crimped edges, hand-stamped corzetti, and canoe-shaped scarpinocc. The Flour + Water people are experts in unexpected flavor combinations (which is why they’ve reached icon status)—cocoa and rutabaga, uni butter and sourdough breadcrumbs, or corn pudding and calabrian chili crunch meld together like they’re long-lost twins. Going all in on pasta (and some wine) is the move, since you'd probably combust trying to narrow it down to just one or two.
Since you'll be busy slurping up bucatini or wiping brown butter sauce with a side of sliced sourdough, you might not realize there are pizzas and a few entrées on the menu. The pies, which also change frequently and are well-balanced with uber-fresh toppings, are nice, though the crust can at times be limp. And starters, like the corn arancini finished with edible flowers and jalapeño, enhance an already delightful meal. But you aren’t coming to Flour + f*cking Water to eat a pork chop, no matter how nice that pork chop is.
Since this city is obsessed with pasta, it’s no surprise that so many restaurants in town have taken cues from this legend’s playbook. Flour + Water is the veteran of the Cal-Ital pasta crowd. And lucky for us, they're showing off their mastery at several spin-offs, like the more casual Penny Roma and Flour + Water Pizzeria. But when you really want to be surprised by the most out-of-the-box pasta in town, Flour + Water it is.
The menu at Flour + Water changes daily. Here’s a general idea of what you can expect.
Pasta Tasting Menu
The pasta tasting menu is a 10-course carbohydrate spectacle ($135) that showcases hits that are both on and off the standard menu. It’s also way too much food for one sitting, but a really fun way to try a sh*t ton of their phenomenal pastas without having to make a single decision.
Do you typically enjoy eating things like butter and cheese? Then step right up to this dish. It’s a Flour + Water staple, and it’s easy to see why. Each pocket is stuffed with mild taleggio and soaking in butter and aged balsamic vinegar—simple and flawless.
A runaway highlight from one of our most recent visits. The half-moon pastas are drenched in a decadent brown butter sauce, garnished with sweet corn pudding, pineapple mint, and chili crunch. It’s a texture extravaganza on a plate.
These pasta pouches are filled with duck that'll melt like cotton candy in your mouth, and tinted a reddish-purple from the juniper berries. Warm smoked cherries on top tie every bite together beautifully.
The pizzas—topped with, no surprise, hyper-seasonal ingredients like corn or autumn squash fonduta—are good, but they’re not the reason you’re here. Skip these and order more pastas instead.
Seared Pork Chop
A very good pork chop. The nectarine mostarda adds a tangy fruitiness that balances out all the richness. If you’re positively dying for a plate of protein, this won’t disappoint.
We’ve never left the premises without ordering this, and neither should you. Luxurious, velvety, and chocolatey as hell, this gorgeous specimen is topped with thick espresso whipped cream and sea salt.