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Tratto

PHOTOS: Krescent Carasso

Union Square is a San Francisco fact of life. Yes, you can avoid it for 363 days of the year, but then there’s the time you have to go to Macy’s for Grandad’s birthday present and, inevitably, the old friend who’s in town and has an hour before her flight leaves so she has to be quick. Some people might give up, or try to just meet for a drink, or send the friend off to the airport to get a $25 salad at Max’s. But those people don't know about Tratto. Because Tratto, an Italian spot in a random hotel near Union Square, is a totally solid choice for all of the above situations - it just happens to be sort of near Union Square, and definitely attached to a hotel.

We'll be clear: Tratto is better than 99% of the surrounding options, but it still definitely feels like a Union Square restaurant. There’s a cool bar, and there are black and white tile floors and painted arty scenes of Italy on the walls. But the lights are also pretty bright, it’s never really that full, and the crowd definitely leans tourist. It’s also really easy to get a table here, which makes it a very unintimidating place to get some dinner or happy hour drinks. Just be aware that you will have to enter the hotel lobby to use the restroom.

If it weren't so useful in key situations, we'd wish Tratto were in a better neighborhood, because the food is strong across the board. The menu is down-the-middle Italian, maybe so as not to scare aware the group of moms from Milwaukee on their first trip to San Fran, but all of it is very well done. The pizzas are great, the salads are full of flavor, and the pastas are tasty and good to share.

Service is a bit spotty -- drink refills take longer than they should for a semi-empty spot and dishes can come out all at once after a long wait, but it might just be because the kitchen didn’t have much else to do besides cook all our things at once.

So while we wouldn’t recommend a trip to Tratto just for kicks, if you’re in the area and in need of a happy hour or quiet Italian meal with no stress, it’s the move. Get your friend her dinner and wine and send her off to SFO. No Max’s necessary.

Food Rundown

Focaccia

Yes it’s two dollars for bread, but the housemade stuff is a little salty, a little sweet, and a great vehicle to soak up some sauce later in the meal.

Fried Chicken

This is only on the happy hour menu, but it’s a strong dish. There are some bacon bits going on and we’re into it.

Tuscan Kale

Are kale caesars everywhere? Yup. Has anyone ever called it a “Hail Caesar” on the menu and had a nerd laugh to themselves? We hope so. This is a good salad, heavy on the anchovy so if that’s your jam - get excited.

Fritto Misto

A basic but good appetizer to share. The aioli is nice and the fried lemons in the mix are intense in a good way. If you’re a lemon person.

Bucatini

The sauce on this is excellent, and the pasta itself is definitely better than anything you would have cooked out of a box at home. Could have used a bit more pancetta, but when isn’t that the case?

Skirt Steak

The steak itself is a bit bland, but the beans that come with it are fire. Not sure what they do to them, but they’re rich and delicious and the best part of the dish. They also come as a side, so skip the steak and get them on their own.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Sort of a cake, sort of a pudding, sort of good. If you need something sweet, this is the best option, but nothing that will change your life.

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