Thursday, August 24, 2006

One of My Favorite Restaurants in SF is L'Osteria del Forno

L’Osteria del Forno

There is an Italian restaurant in North Beach (what other kind are there?) that is really wonderful, and I am inspired enough by the great food, atmosphere and service to write a review about the place. Its name is L’Osteria del Forno, located on Columbus Street right in the heart of North Beach’s Little Italy section. I have been to many restaurants in North Beach, and while some are average and a few are quite poor, this place is outstanding. I would send any of my friends there without hesitation, because every time I have eaten there, it has been a spectacular experience. The restaurant is tiny, with maybe a dozen tables inside and a couple outside. It has an open kitchen that looks cramped and crowded, but that doesn’t stop the chefs there from putting out some of the tastiest authentic Italian cuisine I’ve ever eaten. They have a brick-lined oven at L’Osteria del Forno where they bake the kind of pizzas and focaccia bread that causes a foodie like myself to drool like Pavlov’s dogs. The pizza crust is not thick or doughy. It is almost cracker-like in its consistency with a texture that can only be described as indescribable. I hate chewy pizza and this is anything but. At $10 to $19 apiece, these magnificent discs of delectability come with toppings that complement them perfectly. They are simple and not stacked to the ceiling with a bunch of stuff that shouldn’t go on pizzas, like Canadian bacon, pineapple, pine nuts, and hamburger meat (Gag!) The other day I told somebody on the street, obviously an out-of-towner, about the place and how good their pizza was and he asked me, "Is it as good as Round Table?" I just walked away! Try the Tre Formaggi with imported gorgonzola, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Or the Porcini topped with sautéed imported porcini mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella and olive oil. You can also add extra toppings for two dollars each, but why would you want to? Leave the pizza making to the experts. You don’t get under the sink and help your plumber when he comes over to fix the pipes, do you? Let these professionals do their job and order these wondrous creations of love the way they were designed to be eaten. If you aren’t in the mood for a pizza, try the focaccine at L’Osteria del Forno. They bake the bread for these classic Italian sandwiches themselves, and they are simply divine. For six or seven dollars each, these masterpieces blow away burgers and deli sandwiches in a major way. I always order the Arrosto, which features the restaurant’s thinly sliced roast of the day (usually ham, beef or chicken) with tomatoes and lettuce, and that’s it. If I see another bean sprout, cucumber slice or green bell pepper on a sandwich, I think I’m going to lose it. Or maybe try the Boscaiolo focaccine sandwich with smoked prosciutto, porcini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and lettuce. These aren’t just sandwiches, they’re statements! If pizza and sandwiches aren’t on your wish list, the pastas and specials at L’Osteria del Forno are superb as well. I’ve had the Ravioli di Zucca, which is a pumpkin-filled ravioli served with clarified butter and sage, and the Gnocchi di Patate, potato dumplings served with organic tomatoes, butter and basil. These dishes don’t come drowning in red sauce like you’ll find in many supposedly authentic Italian restaurants. Entrees and specials range in price from nine to 20 dollars, and they’re worth every penny. There are a lot of tourist trap restaurants in North Beach that claim to be the real thing. Don’t get sucked in by their checkered table cloths and chronically rude waiters. Real food made with love the way it’s made in Italy itself is what’s important – and L’Osteria del Forno is the real thing!

L’Osteria del Forno
519 Columbus Avenue (Between Green & Union Streets in North Beach)
(415) 982-1124
Reservations not accepted
Open for lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday
Credit cards not accepted

I give this place 4.75 burps (out of five)
To find out more about L'Osteria del Forno and check out their menu, visit their Web site at:

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