photo credit: Susie Lacocque
Seven Hills has been around for about a decade, and people talk about this neighborhood spot like it’s the city’s best-kept secret. (But have they heard of the Wave Organ?) The restaurant is always packed, reservations are hard to come by, and on any given night you might have to wait an hour just for a seat at the bar. But even though people come to this restaurant with their clothes a little more pressed than usual - and treat a dinner here like a big night out - a trip to Seven Hills ends up being a letdown, mainly because the food is so underwhelming.
Seven Hills serves California-style Italian dishes you’ve seen a hundred times. They have mozzarella, meatballs, steak au jus, and a fish of the day. If they pulled these dishes off with flawless precision, we’d consider moving nearby just so we could eat here more often.
But sadly, they don’t.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
The meatballs and steak are just OK, the mozzarella is bland, and depending on the night, you might get fish served with an intensely sweet risotto that feels like someone put them on the same plate by mistake. You’ll be left with a lingering feeling of disappointment, and a little confused about how something so familiar can be so off-putting. Thankfully, there’s a way to avoid this heartbreak - go heavy on the pastas.
The pastas at Seven Hills constantly change, and are consistently the best things here. There may be a casoncelli with suckling pig and rich pork jus that will remind you why you’re obsessed with pasta in the first place, or a pappardelle with tender braised short ribs that fall apart under the weight of your fork. These dishes aren’t in the pantheon of great San Francisco pasta by any means - but they’re passably good. And even among these hits, there are misfires - like the mushroom tortellini that tastes like it was bought from Trader Joe’s and dressed up with a balsamic reduction. But still, we’d take it over the runny pate, which makes us wish we could travel back in time and warn ourselves to avoid it.
If you live in Russian or Nob Hills and are in the mood for a decent bowl of pasta - and don’t feel like facing downtown traffic or trekking to the Mission to the better neighborhood Italian spots - Seven Hills can get the job done. But if you’re coming here on hype alone, you won’t walk out feeling blown away. You’ll have much better luck at the Wave Organ.
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Tomato Braised Polpette
These light fontina-stuffed meatballs are a good way to start the meal. That said, you can still find better meatballs at other places around the city.
Duck Liver Pate
We’re not fans of this pate. It’s served over warm (sometimes burnt) toast, and comes to the table runny. The blood orange marmalade on top is also overly sweet. Skip it.
Ramini Buffalo Mozzarella
The mozzarella is bland and the carrot puree is so sweet it tastes like icing on a birthday cake, but the roasted carrots are good. Even if you love carrots like Michael Phelps loves winning, pass on this.
This pasta is the best thing here. It has a suckling pig filling, kale, and pork jus, and it all comes together to make a dish you’ll simultaneously want everyone at your table to try, but also keep to yourself.
The short rib is tasty, but there’s not a lot of it in this bowl of pasta. Still, we’d order this again.
The kale pasta goes well with the heavy mushroom sugo, and is one of the better things on the menu.
Most of the pasta is only enough for one person, but this maccheroncelli with crushed tomato, chili, ricotta, and basil is easy to split with two people. Go with this if you need a crowd pleaser.
The mushroom tortelli somehow blurs the line between just fine and really good. Some bites are packed with big mushroom and balsamic flavors, and others taste standard, like you bought them in the frozen aisle at TJ’s.
Gracie Creek Prime NY Strip
This is a perfectly good steak with rich jus, and if you’re a heavy meat person, you’ll be a fan of this.
We’re not sure how a fish can send us into a funk, but this one did. The mandarin orange risotto is so strangely sweet and overpowers whatever fish of the day. Like we said, you’re better off filling up on the pasta.