Okay you know the scene in the Godfather when Michael assassinates Sollozzo in the Italian restaurant? As soon as I walked into Pesce I felt like I was in a similar scene. Well, minus the white table cloths and the getting shot in the head part. This is a tile floored, wooden walled, no frills, neighborhood Italian joint that is taking a spin on "family style" by serving seafood tapas instead of giant platters of baked ziti. And it works.
The atmosphere is a little bit quieter than I would've expected, and I wouldn't necessarily go there for a first or second date, but I was there in a group of 5 so we certainly livened the place up. It was also convenient because, after a good 15 minutes of debating exactly how we were going to split the food up between everyone, we just decided to share everything. What I'm trying to say is I had the chance to try about 1/2 of their menu.
The clear winner: the scallops. I love scallops. Everyone knows they're delicious and hard to mess up. But, I also think it's hard to make a scallop to-die-for, and somehow Pesce hits it on the head with chanterelles, green onion, cream, and truffle essence.
The other clear winner - the Barbera d'Asti wine. Next time I go and the waitress asks if I'd like a glass of wine I'm going to say "No, I think I'll take the whole bottle. No, seriously."
Other favorites included the braised octopus, squid ink risotto (which seems to be popping up on Italian menus everywhere nowadays!), and herb-crusted tuna. While there was not a single dish that disappointed, other than the scallops, there were also not very many dishes that knocked my socks off. I'm having trouble finding the words to write this review because everything was solid but nothing impressed me enough that I want to write an ode to its memory.
So, because I was there with a great group of friends, because the wine was delicious, because I have no complaints of the service, and because the food was on point, but nothing was particularly exciting, I have to lean towards 3 1/2 stars (a trend I'm beginning to think applies to almost every restaurant I try in Russian Hill). I'm sure if I lived in the area, or I wanted to kill a mafioso, I'd be back, but for now I think I'll stick to my neighborhood Italian joint - Delfina.
2227 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109-1815