The Castro has finally become a dining powerhouse in recent years, with restaurants like Frances and Starbelly moving in. And in the last year, new spots like Fable, Hi-Tops, Slider Bar, and Super Duper are bringing the variety.
The latest, Pesce, is a transplant from Polk Street and takes over the spot held by longtime Castro favorite 2223 Restaurant (and briefly Jake’s on Market). The first restaurant by Adriano Paganini, who went on to open Beretta, the aforementioned Starbelly, Delarosa, and Super Duper, Pesce had a loyal following in its tiny space on Polk. But in its larger space, Pesce is gaining new loyalists.
When I visited on a Saturday night with some friends, the restaurant was so busy that we had to wait almost 30 minutes to be seated despite having reservations. The servers, though, are friendly and welcoming once you’re seated.
The restaurant layout hasn’t changed much since 2223, but it has an added back room, where we ended up sitting. The menu reflects the longtime Venetian seafood dishes by co-owner and chef Ruggero Gadaldi, and several of them are offered cicheti-style, which is the Venetian tradition of small plates or bar bites.
Because of this, our server suggested we order a few dishes to share. But because I was with a few people who had dietary restrictions, we just ended up ordering our own, which made for an unusual parade of small plates.
I ordered the gnocchi ($16), which had a heavy cream sauce, while the gnocchi itself was a bit on the large side. I wished the gnocchi was a lighter meal, but it was weighed down by the cream and milk-braised pork, which tasted like chicken to me.
My friends enjoyed their orders, like Craig’s bufalo mozzarella cheese with seasonal delicata squash ($8) or Jason’s braised octopus ($13), which was cooked to the right tender texture and served simply with lemon vinaigrette.
My main order of seared scallops ($14) was a little too seared for my taste but my dessert of tiramisu ($7) had the perfect balance of coffee and run with chocolate carried by the layers of ladyfingers.
The Last Bite
While Pesce doesn’t feel like an authentic Venetian Italian restaurant, its modern touches and seasonal ingredients are pitch-perfect for San Francisco’s hungry dining crowd. The serving size may be a bit small because of the cicheti influence (even the entrees), but it’s a solid addition to the growing Castro scene.
Pesce, 2223 Market St., San Francisco. PH 415.928.8025. Open dinner daily from 5:30 p.m. (till 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday), and weekend brunch, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. pescebarsf.com
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