When star chef Mario Batali tasted Cioppino's Restaurant & Bar's signature dish—cioppino, an italian seafood stew with tomatoes and fennel—he liked it so much that he said, “I could eat that every day.” The richness of the cioppino sets the tone for the rest of the menu, which teems with hearty Italian staples such as rigatoni pomodoro, shrimp capellini, and margherita pizzas.
Diners devour these dishes inside the mural-bedecked dining room at tables draped in red-gingham tablecloths. They can also head out to the patio, which the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant keeps open 365 days per year, come rain or kraken attack.
Blu Restaurant's floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the bustle on Market Street from the fourth floor of The Sports Club/LA. Servers set entree plates such as grilled salmon and house-made wild fennel pappardelle atop white linen tablecloths, and mixologists behind the sleek ebony bar fill glasses and crystal Super Soakers with libations from an extensive wine list. Blu Restaurant's multiple dining rooms and bar play host to private events, such as corporate functions and bridal showers.
Yabbies' soft lighting sets the mood for diving into dishes featuring local, fresh ingredients from area farmers' markets and fishermen. Like the walrus and the carpenter, you can slurp up delicious oysters from the raw bar, such as the bi-polar Pearl Point Washingtons ($2), a salty and sweet taste with cucumber finish, or the fruity Point Reyes ($2). Starters follow suit with sea meats such as warm baby octopus ($10) and half roasted Dungeness crab ($22). For a main course, Yabbies' menu includes oceanic treats including halibut with fava beans and pesto gnocchi ($22), sesame-crusted ahi tuna ($21), and bacon-wrapped Idaho trout glazed with a light mustard sauce ($19).
The Vibe: Brass and milk-glass light fixtures hang from the restaurant's ceiling, casting a warm glow over a wooden bar that stretches from the front door all the way back to the kitchen. On the other side, diners relax at tables covered in white tablecloths and private booths built right into the walls.
By the Numbers
Cioppino: a fish stew that originated in San Francisco, it’s made with the catch of the day, typically a combination of fish and shellfish.
Praise and Accolades
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Tour the local works at Art People (50 Post Street).
After: See the current play at The Cutting Ball Theater (277 Taylor Street).
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: the hand-raised shellfish at Hog Island Oyster Co. (1 Ferry Building, Shop 11).
What to Drink: Before opening La Ciccia, owner Massimiliano Conti worked for Italian wine importer Winebow. He taps into that expertise to put together the wine list, which contains dozens of little-known bottles. Sardinian gems include the white nuragus, whose soft fruit tones complement the delicate flavor of seafood.
The Owners: Sardinian by birth, Massimiliano Conti came to the States in 1993 with the dream of opening a restaurant dedicated to the food of his homeland. In 2009, he and his wife made their dream a reality, transforming a vacated pizza joint into a space that SF Weekly called "simultaneously familial, relaxed, and sophisticated—a very Italian trick."
While You're Waiting
Fregula: a semolina-based pasta from Sardinia that’s similar to couscous.
Tagliolini: a thin, cylindrical egg pasta that can be served in a nest to hold thick, meat-based sauces.
Bottarga: dried tuna or mullet roe with an intense fishy flavor that’s similar in property to anchovies.
While You're in the Neighborhood: Tour the eccentric Pritikin Museum (47 Chenery Street), built by ad executive Bob Pritikin as his personal residence. The house and grounds hold an estimated $40 million worth of paintings and sculptures, including a 20-foot bronze tree whose branches spew fire.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: La Nebbia (1781 Church Street), the owners' new joint around the corner, offers a more casual menu of wine and appetizers.
The Vibes: Woodhouse Fish Company has locations on Market and Fillmore Streets. Both aim to serve ultra-fresh seafood in a casual environment. Grab a spot at the counter or in a booth, and then order a beer from the bar to wash down your grub.
The Owners: MacNiven brothers Dylan and Rowan started the restaurants, and they source as much local and sustainable seafood as possible. In fact, they make deals with fishermen right at the pier, which means the restaurants’ seafood often comes right off the boat. Other ingredients—such as Maine lobster—are shipped in from the East Coast.
When to Go: Come on Tuesdays, when the restaurant serves oysters for just a dollar each.
Press and Praise
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: the shellfish at Anchor Oyster Bar (579 Castro Street).