When it comes to siblings, there’s always one over-achiever - just imagine how Seth Curry feels. Similarly, Penny Roma, the sister restaurant of San Francisco’s Pasta Hall of Famer, Flour + Water, has a lot to live up to, especially considering it also serves pasta, and is also located in the Mission. But even with the bar set so high, Penny Roma very much stands on its own.
The biggest similarity between the two restaurants is that pasta is the main focus - but that’s just about all they have in common. At Flour + Water, you’ll see daily-changing Cal-Ital pastas like triangoli with huckleberry and mint, or spaghetti with salmon and uni. But at Penny Roma, the dishes lean more traditional Italian - so if you’re looking for somewhere to dive into a bowl of meat sauce, this is your place. The menu also doesn’t rotate as often, with things like crudos, appetizers, and some bigger dishes like seared trout or chicken al mattone.
You’ll want to stick to the pastas and smaller plates, like an amberjack crudo or the tomato salad - plus the cake-like focaccia, which is great for soaking up any extra sauce. The entrées are good, but you should try as many of the fresh, carb-y noodles that have been twisted, rolled, and folded into perfect little shapes next door at the appropriately-named Flour + Water Pasta Shop. You’ll fall a bit in love with the plump, squash-filled tortelloni (and then battle it out with your table for the last piece in the bowl). And you’ll want to order a second round of the cacio e pepe that’s so rich it probably owns a self-driving car. There are no out-of-the-box flavor combinations at Penny Roma - just simple pastas that will make you feel like you’ve packed all your belongings, hopped on a plane, and touched down in the Italian countryside.
But even though you’re actually just in the Mission, the dining room’s high ceilings, skylights, and fountain trickling away in the entryway will feel like an escape from the outside world. Which is only one reason why you’ll see couples tucked into corner tables on a date night, families grabbing dinner on a Monday, or groups of friends celebrating a birthday over wine and plates of prosciutto. The other is that Penny Roma is easier to get a reservation than at its sister spot. If you’re familiar with Flour + Water, think of Penny Roma as the more casual version, with great pastas that require little explanation. And it’s an impressive version at that.
Sometimes this crudo is made with hamachi, and sometimes it’s amberjack. But regardless of what you end up with, the fish will be incredibly fresh and complement the high-quality olive oil it’s bathing in perfectly. The little bits of jalapeño and radish brighten the whole thing up.
Slices of Shinko pear are buried underneath a blanket of prosciutto. This dish will make you wish you were one of those slices of Shinko pear. Get this for the table to share.
Our favorite pasta on the menu. The roasted squash filling and brown butter sauce are silky smooth, and each bite is more comforting than getting tucked into bed with a heated, weighted blanket.
An excellent version of a classic. The meaty sauce is tender and flavorful, and clings to the noodles really nicely.
These juicy pork and beef-filled pillows are served in a fragrant sugo d’arrosto that you’ll want to wipe up every last bit of - that’s where the focaccia comes in. Leave no sauce behind.
The thick, square-shaped pasta is the ideal vehicle for the creamy, simple, well-executed sauce.
Like we said, come here for the pasta. But if you really want a bigger entrée on the table, this lemon-y chicken is a great option.