Pesce Seafood Bar: San Francisco

Lowlight + iPhone means subpar photography. I won’t be that guy who uses his flash at dinner. I just won’t.


“So, I got you this for your trip.”

My sister, ever the Paventi, knew that the only thing she could have given us for our anniversary was the gift of food. The pink paper with the words Pesce Seafood Bar was shear coincidence.

Pesce made the shortlist of dinner options when my research began. Eater, San Francisco Weekly and SFGate all spoke highly of the Russian Hill eatery. When it popped up on Zagat’s list of the best seafood restaurants in San Francisco, it went from maybe to reservations.

The unpretentious spot on Polk Street is not difficult to find, but blends in well with the other restaurants and bars. The Wife and I entered about 40 minutes early, expecting to find a crowded bar. Instead, it was empty. Worried about misreported quality, we venture a couple of doors down to Green’s Sports Bar for beverages. By the time we returned for our 6:30 reservation, all was right with the world. The joint was packed and we were ushered swiftly to our seat.

Pesce’s menu is divided into cold and hot dishes served as small plates tapas style. We knew this going in, and planned our attack strategically. Round one saw us share the farro con gamberoni. The farro was cooked nicely and served with five large shrimp that had been grilled and brushed with lemon and olive oil.

Round two saw us go our own respective ways. I chose the pappardelle, while she went for the squid ink risotto. My wide egg noodles was mixed with a duck and porcini ragout. The duck fat provided such a creamy base for the sauce, that the mushrooms were barely noticeable. That’s not a bad thing, if you like duck. The Wife’s grilled squid rings were cooked perfectly and provided perfect contrast to the black rice beneath.

Along the way, I knocked back a pair of oyster shots. Fresh raw oysters were served in a shot glass with diced cucumber, horseradish and cocktail sauce. Both of the shots I ordered during the evening went down smoothly with no flavor fighting for attention.

The final turn was where The Wife made an interesting turn. Almost predictably, I ordered the calamari. Small squid bodies were grilled and served with fennel in a spicy tomato sauce. The bite size pieces would have been great in any dish tossed with pasta.

The Wife went for meat. Strange, right? Yet, her choice of maiale al latte might have been the best of the night. Tender pieces of pork were braised in milk and served with pancetta and gnocchi. The milk base was bread-mopping worthy on its own. The pork fell apart when pierced with a fork, while the gnocchi was rather light considering its potato origin.

The table next to us ordered two rounds of oysters. The market-priced platters came by the dozen on an ice-lined tray with lemon, horseradish and cocktail sauce. If only The Wife like the squirmy little guys dinner would have been “absolutely perfect.”

Instead it was “just perfect.”

Pesce Seafood Bar is located at 2227 Polk Street between Green and Vallejo Streets in San Francisco’s Russian Hill. Dinner and two drinks, before tip, was $85.85.

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