San Francisco loves a high-end Italian restaurant. A lot of the best places in the city serve upscale versions of pasta with ingredients like lovage or huitlacoche, and while many of them are delicious, sometimes you want to go to an Italian place where you can get a big bowl of pasta that requires no explanation. Trattoria Contadina is a restaurant in Russian Hill that’s great when you just want some solid classic Italian-American food.
You could search for places in Little Italy to get mountains of pasta, but there aren’t really any spots that you’d actually want to walk in to. Walk down Columbus Avenue and people with menus will try to usher you into their restaurants with pictures of the Mona Lisa and gondolas all over the walls, which unless you love the Mona Lisa, can feel a lot more like you’re eating in the ninth ring of Dante’s Inferno (there are pictures of that, too). Trattoria Contadina, on the other hand, is only a five-minute walk away, but could not feel more different. There’s no crazy signage or flags, save for a few red and green lamp shades, and the walls are covered in sports memorabilia and headshots of the celebrities who ate there in the 80s and 90s.
When it comes to the menu, you’ll find heavy pasta dishes and classics like veal saltimbocca, all well-executed. And no matter what you order, the portions here are gigantic. You’ll definitely share whatever you get with another person or two. Not because you want to, but because you absolutely need to.
And sharing with people won’t be an issue because Trattoria Contadina is the kind of restaurant you come to with three of your closest friends or relatives. The place is always packed with people seemingly celebrating one thing or another while their kid pays little attention to anything but the pasta in front of him. And that kid has the right idea. You don’t come here to analyze the seasonality of ingredients in the food. You come to Trattoria Contadina when you want a big, simple bowl of pasta.
A dying artform.
The comfort food of salads fits in well on this menu, and theirs is great.
You shouldn’t need to be sold on burrata or even prosciutto as young as 23 months. They serve theirs with orange and fig jam and arugula. You know what to do.
Mildly spicy. Mix the burrata that it comes with into the pasta for a fondue kind of thing.
You really need to share this one because it’s that heavy. This is fusilli with chicken, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes, and cream. This pasta is at a comfort food level that could solve getting stood up at prom.
Not the “light pillows” that everyone freaks out over, these are a little dense and more dumpling-like but still really good and the tomato cream it comes with is great.
Exactly what you’d expect and exactly what you want it to be: veal cutlets in marsala and tomato sauce with melted mozzarella on top. If that’s not old school enough for you, it comes with a heaping mound of mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach. Your grandparents would be proud of you for getting this.